Pablo Mastroeni is keeping his feet on the ground despite a strong Real Salt Lake season as his team prepares to host the Houston Dynamo on Saturday.
RSL has won consecutive matches and sits fourth in the Western Conference, just four points behind leaders Los Angeles FC. But head coach Mastroeni explained ahead of the Houston game how he focuses only on what he sees, rather than any discussion around his team’s success.
“The key as a coach is you don’t get too high and you don’t get too low,” he told KSL Sports. “That’s why staying away from any kind of social media is the key to any kind of normalcy in your life – and basing your happiness with training with your eyes and what you feel. Same thing in games, with your eyes and what you feel.
“I know that we’ve shown we can do a lot of different things with this group, given different types of personnel. That mentality piece, overcoming different circumstances, I now feel like we have a good balance – the way we want to attack and be dangerous, and the way we want to defend and being difficult to beat. I’m really proud of the group and really proud of their development.”
The challenge now is to maintain this form with the Dynamo posing some questions the coach is working hard to answer.
“They’re a very direct team,” Mastroeni said. “Obviously we’re going to want to push the tempo quite a bit, (so) the space behind our back line is a real threat. They have great wingers that are always testing the back line, and they’ve got players in the back line who aren’t afraid to play that (way) ad nauseam.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Real Salt Lake – Sergio Cordova
Mastroeni described RSL’s most recent game at CF Montreal as “probably our most complete performance”, no doubt not least because he got a rare goal from one of his forwards. If Cordova, who got on the scoresheet for the first time since March, could find the net regularly, RSL would move up another level.
Houston Dynamo – Thor Ulfarsson
As Mastroeni intimated, the Dynamo have dangerous attacking players right across the front line, with Ulfarsson the latest to get in on the act in a big win at the LA Galaxy. His stunning strike for the third goal was his first in MLS and showed the depth of Houston’s options.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Real Salt Lake has not lost any of its past nine MLS matches against Houston (W4 D5), including a 0-0 away draw in February. RSL has two longer unbeaten runs against a single team in the club’s MLS history, going 10 in a row without losing against the Union from 2010-17 and Portland from 2011-14 (including playoffs).
– Real Salt Lake came from behind to win for the second straight week with a 2-1 win in Montreal on Sunday. RSL has three wins after conceding the opening goal this season, tied for the most in MLS (also LAFC). Their eight wins after going 1-0 down since the start of last season are the most in the league (including playoffs).
– The Dynamo recorded a 3-0 win at the Galaxy on Sunday, the club’s second win in its past 30 away matches (also 3-1 at Miami in April). Since the start of the 2018 season, Houston has won all seven away matches in which it has scored three or more goals and have failed to win any of the others (D14 L45).
– Real Salt Lake has held just two halftime leads this season, going on to draw each time it was ahead at the break. No team has earned more points from goals scored in the second half than RSL this season, with 15 of its 22 points coming courtesy of second-half strikes.
– Sebastian Ferreira was involved in all three Dynamo goals against the Galaxy on Sunday (one goal, two assists). Ferreira has been involved in seven of Houston’s 11 goals since April 9 (five goals, two assists), only Cristian Espinoza, Taxi Fountas and Valentin Castellanos (eight each) have been involved in more in that time.