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Game-changer: Real Salt Lake was a woeful road team before a 2009 trip into Ohio

David Beckham, Javier Morales

Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder David Beckham, left, and Real Salt Lake midfielder Javier Morales battle for the ball during the first half of the Western Conference Championship soccer match Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Bret Hartman)

AP

Real Salt Lake’s trip into Kansas to meet Sporting KC – it’s the MLS talker of the weekend – won’t be easy.

But it’s not far-fetched that Jason Kreis’ team could steal a point or even walk out of Livestrong Sporting Park with all three. RSL is a hardy road side – even if this was hardly the case just three years ago.

Under Kreis, the men of Rio Tinto have become quite adept at managing life beyond Utah borders. They’ve already won at Los Angeles and Portland this year. Yes, both those teams have more issues than Time Magazine at the moment, but that shouldn’t discount the significance of achievement of a visitor into the Home Depot Center or Jeld-Wen Field.

Real Salt Lake is 11-12-11 on the road since 2009. The team’s record at Rio Tinto is quite healthy, and for a time it was historically strong. But you can make a case that it’s RSL’s road form that elevates the team from “good” to “legit league contender” status.

And that traces back to a certain night in Columbus in November of 2009.

First, examine the difference in the three seasons before that fall trip into Ohio, a real game-changer for the franchise.


  • 2007 … 2-8-5
  • 2008 … 2-9-4
  • 2009 … 2-11-2
  • Total … 6-28-11

And then after that noted playoff victory at Crew Stadium:


  • 2010 … 4-4-7
  • 2011 … 5-8-4
  • 2012 … 2-0-0
  • Total … 11-12-11

That is one Big Kahuna of a difference.

So what happened in that 2009 playoff series? RSL had a 1-0 lead after the opening leg in Utah, a match remembered for Robert Warzycha’s decision to keep Guillermo Barros Schelotto on Columbus’ bench. Still, things looked good for the defending champs, who took a 2-0 lead in the return leg in Ohio. At the time, RSL had never rallied from behind on the road. But then …

Robbie Findley, Javier Morales and Andy Williams struck for RSL, they cruised through on aggregate, won subsequently in the conference final at Chicago’s Toyota Park and went on to claim MLS Cup 2009.

Since then, RSL on the road has been a completely different side. Kreis has shaken the temptations of his younger coaching days to do things differently on the road, refusing to cede to the appeal of playing more defensively away from Rio Tinto.

We’ll see how it works for everyone tomorrow at Livestrong Sporting Park.