LEHI, Utah - Real Salt Lake have an objective for their opening playoff series against FC Dallas: take their defensive effort to another level.
It’s hard to imagine improving the RSL defense, which totaled a league-high 15 shutouts this season and set a new MLS single-season record by allowing just 20 goals.
“We have played well defensively,”defender Tony Beltran said. “We did break that record, but we could have done better. We’ll keep doing the same things we’ve been doing that have got us to this point, but still we never like to give up goals.”
Two of the keys to this defense will be located centrally. Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers are a formidable pair in the middle, and have each recently been named among the three finalists for the league’s Defender of the Year award.
Olave is a physical presence with size and strength, and surprising speed to boot. But his aggressive and imposing nature is balanced by the more cautious play of Borchers, enjoying his best season since joining the club in 2008.
Those two are joined by Nick Rimando, who is one of the three finalists for Goalkeeper of the Year. Despite his short stature, he has great athletic ability and plays the ball extremely well with his feet.
Rimando had 14 shutouts this year, and established two of the longest shutout streaks in league history during this season.
"We’ve got the players that want to play defense, that want to contribute to the team, and that’s why we’ve got the team records right now," he told MLSsoccer.com.
Despite all of the prior success, Real Salt Lake will need a consistent effort to stop a potent Dallas attack that scored 42 goals on the season, fourth best in the league.
Defender Chris Wingert warns that it’s what lies ahead that is important.
“We have played extremely well as a team defensively throughout the season,” Wingert said, “but again that will mean nothing if we go down there and give up a bunch of goals.”
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