Impact face difficult road test at Real Salt Lake
Playing in Utah is turning into an experience that all Real Salt Lake opponents would love to forget.
Since dropping its home opener, Real Salt Lake has put together an 11-game unbeaten streak at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. With 29 points of a possible 36 in 12 home games, Salt Lake has performed better at home than any other MLS team in the Western Conference to this point in the season.
Getting in the win column will present a stiff challenge to the Montreal Impact when they travel to Utah to face RSL on Saturday. The clubs have been traveling in opposite directions in August.
Montreal (9-13-2) is mired in a three-game winless streak and has won just two road games this season. The Impact came to life in June after a slow start to the season, but their momentum has cooled off.
Defense has been a sore spot. The Impact have allowed eight goals in their last five MLS games and are 0-2-2 in that stretch when their opponent scores. On the road, it gets worse with Montreal allowing 1.83 goals per game away from home. Overall, 41 percent of their opponents' shots are on target in all games, which is the second-highest opponent accuracy rate in MLS.
Montreal had a chance to reverse fortunes last weekend after scoring in the fifth minute against D.C. United. But the Impact eventually settled for a 1-1 draw thanks to Yamil Asad's equalizer in the 70th minute.
"We opened the scoring quickly and then we became spectators," Impact coach Remi Garde told MLSSoccer.com after the game. "We played too low on the pitch and we didn't put enough pressure on our opponent. They gained confidence, started passing more, and played like they were the home team."
Real Salt Lake (10-9-4) is poised to take advantage of any such struggles this weekend. RSL has outscored opponents 24-10 during its 11-game unbeaten streak at home. It put 10 of 15 shots on frame and dominated possession from start to finish in a 2-1 win over Chicago last weekend.
Damir Kreilach feasted on the Fire's defense in particular, scoring both goals to help his team extend its unbeaten streak to three games.
"He has a tough situation because I need him to play both sides of the ball probably more than anybody because of his position," RSL coach Mike Petke said. "He is understanding now when I want him to get higher up on the field and when I need him to be back."
The win helped keep Real Salt Lake above the red line in the playoff race. Picking up three points against Montreal would be valuable since RSL trails the second-place Portland Timbers by that exact number.
Updated August 9, 2018