Pablo Mastroeni has no issue with Real Salt Lake’s performance levels but knows they must improve in both boxes to beat the San Jose Earthquakes.
RSL coach Mastroeni has been enthused by displays against Sporting Kansas City and FC Dallas, despite the latter game ending in defeat.
Mastroeni’s men dominated SKC 3-0 and showed plenty in the 1-0 Dallas reverse to encourage optimism.
Discussing what was required to get a “great result” against San Jose on Saturday, Mastroeni told The Drive: “I think it’s important to build off the last two performances, where I thought from a style of play perspective it’s been 10 out of 10.
“Unfortunately, the game of soccer is to win as well. So, while we want to continue to play the same way, we have to be better in not conceding the first goal.
“(We have to be) defensively switched on, whether it’s a throw-in by our box, whether it’s that we’re taking too much risk for very little reward… those are things we’ve talked about this week, to make sure that, on the road, we don’t concede first.
“Then the next part of that is really taking our opportunities. It’s so easy to say that, but the hardest thing in football is to score.
“And that’s why you always pay a premium for goalscorers. They’ve got to find ways in really tight games to make plays.
“If we continue making plays in our defensive box and now making plays in our attacking box, I feel like we’re set up in a good way.
“But San Jose is like every other team in this league; any team in this league can win on any day.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
San Jose Earthquakes – Benji Kikanovic
Kikanovic looks most likely to be the man to cause RSL problem right now, having been involved in five goals in his past five games. The 22-year-old had not previously been involved in a single goal this season but is suddenly in top form.
Real Salt Lake – Sergio Cordova
It is clear that Mastroeni knows the importance of his forward scoring. Cordova has netted four goals this season, with each coming in an RSL win. His coach will now hope he can perform more consistently.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Real Salt Lake recorded a 2-0 home win over San Jose on June 18 in the first meeting of the season between the sides. RSL last beat the Earthquakes twice in a single season in 2013, winning in March and June before losing in September.
– San Jose have lost two straight matches, the first time they have recorded the same result in consecutive matches since a two-match losing streak in March. The first of those losses, a 2-1 home defeat to Houston, is the Earthquakes’ only home defeat since opening the season with a 3-1 loss to the Red Bulls in February.
– Real Salt Lake have won only one of their past nine away matches (D2 L6), including losing the last three in a row. All three matches in that losing run have come by one-goal margins.
– Kikanovic has been involved in five of the nine goals San Jose have scored in July (three goals, two assists), including the lone goal in the defeat on Saturday. Kikanovic was not involved in a goal in any of his first 12 games this season and had totaled five goal contributions in his first 29 MLS games (four goals, one assist).
– Five of Real Salt Lake’s last seven MLS goals have been headers, including two of three in their last win, against Kansas City on July 17. RSL have scored nine headed goals this season, two more than any other team in the league.