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Salt Lake hopes upswing continues vs. Rapids
by Ridge Mahoney, May 10th, 2007 7AM
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[TV PREVIEW] What does a stirring comeback in the debut of Jason Kreis as head coach bode for the future of Real Salt Lake? Real scored more goals in its first game under Kreis than it had in its first four games of the season when Coach John Ellinger, was still in charge. On Thursday, against Colorado (9 pm ET, ESPN2), upbeat Real hopes to continue its progress with by winning its first game of the season.

"From day one that he [Kreis] came in he talked about being accountable, to each other, to our teammates, to the coaches, and having an open and honest relationship," says midfielder Chris Klein, whose blast from outside the penalty area was merely the prelude to a pair of late goals that pulled out a 3-3 tie with the New York Red Bulls last weekend.

"He hasn't changed the way we played, but he wants to change the identity from being an expansion team to a Real Salt Lake team which is really on the upswing."

RSL (0-2-3) gives Kreis his first taste of the Rocky Mountain Cup rivalry as a head coach when it plays Colorado (2-2-1) at Dick's Sporting Goods Park (9 pm ET, ESPN2).

The Rapids beat RSL, 2-0, on the road just 10 days ago with goals from Roberto Brown and Kyle Beckerman, but is coming off its first home defeat ever at DSG Park, a 3-1 loss to Houston after scoring in the third minute.

"We never played with the attitude we needed to play with, we could never get going," said Rapids coach Fernando Clavijo. "We lost the ball way too easy, they were not even putting us under pressure, we just lost it in transition."

Clavijo expects defender Ugo Ihemelu back in the lineup. After being injured in a collision with Freddy Adu in the RSL game, he developed tendonitis in his knee and sat out the Houston game. He could, however, play right back instead of alongside Mike Petke in the middle. Massive forward Roberto Brown suffered a neck strain in a fierce collision with Eddie Robinson but is expected to start.

Andy Williams has been training this week with RSL but didn't make the trip; he's been out with a high ankle sprain.

Klein says he watched Houston's win over Colorado and believes maybe RSL can borrow some of the Dynamo's methods that enabled it to rally from a 1-0 deficit to take three points on the road, though it won't have a rampaging Dwayne DeRosario to count on.

"I thought Houston did a real good job of stretching Colorado out," says Klein. "Obviously, when Dwayne's running well he's hard for any team to stop, but when you have a guy like that who can stretch a team it makes a lot of space for the other guys.

"They're very active in how they attack and how they come at you. Being calm in the back and being compact will be the biggest keys. You have to get them going the other way, make their attacking players defend."

Defensive errors cost RSL against RBNY and Kreis wants to rectify those, but he's also preaching an aggressive mindset. Prior to Klein's goal, RSL had struggled through more than six hours (370 minutes) without scoring a goal.

"I think maybe in a couple of games this year we sat back too much," said Adu, "and Jason wants us to get the ball and go at people, to play to our strengths. We have good attacking players and should be able to score goals, so it's up to me and the other guys to get chances and put them away."

The tie with Red Bull was just one game and one point, and still Real is winless.

"That game felt like a win, the way we came back," says Adu. "We have to feel good about that."

Says Klein, who has scored more goals (10) against Colorado than any RSL player, "We're not satisfied with a tie but to come back the way we did shows what we're capable of and what this team has inside of us.

"Jason said after the game we made a lot of mistakes on the ground, soccer-wise, but the heart and fight we showed toward the end of that game against a very, very good team is something we can just build on."


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