It’s been a few months since Real Salt Lake wasn’t sitting in first place in the Western Conference standings, but it realizes it has plenty of time to accomplish its goal of winning the Supporters’ Shield.
RSL looks to bounce back from a rare shutout Saturday night as it hosts the San Jose Earthquakes, who are winless in six straight MLS road matches.
Salt Lake (14-9-6) had been atop the conference since beating Seattle on June 22, but its 2-0 loss to the Sounders on Sept. 13 dropped it to second place, one point behind a Seattle team that has two games in hand.
It marked the first time RSL was shut out in 24 matches across all competitions since losing 2-0 to Los Angeles on April 27. It still leads MLS with 52 goals, and coach Jason Kreis is confident his team can rebound from the defeat.
“(When) you get to the end of the season, it’s all about getting the three points when you’re at home and getting the result when you’re away,” Kreis said. “That is what is going to give us the best chance to win a Supporters’ Shield and do well in the playoffs.”
Real Salt Lake is 10-1-1 in its 12 overall matches at home, including four straight victories.
“We have another home game coming up, so we have a great chance to have a quick response,” midfielder Ned Grabavoy said. “We just need to try to get better and clean up some of the things we did last week. I know the soccer wasn’t great, but I think we can all give a little bit more energy-wise and fight-wise.”
RSL has had its way with San Jose this season, winning 2-0 on March 3 to end a three-game skid in the series before Javier Morales scored and then assisted on Grabavoy’s goal in a 3-0 victory June 1.
Morales has six goals and six assists in 12 career matches against the Earthquakes (10-11-8), who are chasing the final playoff spot in the West and are 1-1-2 in their last four league matches after last Saturday’s scoreless draw with Vancouver.
San Jose will be seeking a rare road victory, as it is 1-10-3 while being outscored 28-9 and shut out nine times away from home in league play. It has been blanked in five of its last six road matches across all competitions.
The shutout marked the 73rd in the career of 37-year-old goalkeeper Jon Busch, who is 6-4-4 with six shutouts in 14 career matches against RSL.
“We’re all kind of castoffs from other teams,” Busch told the team’s official website. “I think that’s one of the big things that bonds this team together and the reason why we love hanging out together and we love being around each other on a day-to-day basis. Every one of us kind of comes from a similar scenario.”
Wondolowski, the reigning MLS MVP who has scored five times in 10 career appearances against Salt Lake, is scoreless in his last four league matches.