Soccer  > General Soccer  > Salt Lake hoping to close respect gap
July 20, 2010, 05:14 PM
Eight months ago, Real Salt Lake won the MLS Cup and celebrated the greatest moment in the club's short history.

Yet, fullback Chris Wingert said RSL is still searching for respect domestically.

"I think we still have a little something to prove," he said. "Even though we were extremely happy and satisfied with winning the championship last year, we know some people thought we were a little lucky and we were fortunate we hit our peak at the right time."

Sure, Real Salt Lake has struggled during the regular season - it was the last of eight teams to qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs last year - but the team has surged as the games dwindled and was one of the last four clubs standing in each of the last two seasons.

This year has been different. After losing three of its first five, RSL won five straight, and has lost only once since April 24, to claim the third-best record in the league at the season's midpoint.

"We're proving now that we deserved to win that championship and we're showing that we really do have a good squad and we're continuing to play well," Wingert said.

Real Salt Lake's success is based on confidence, especially on the road this year where RSL has won three of eight and lost four.

"I like our mentality so far this year on the road, which has been to try to get after it a bit," Wingert said. "We think we're most successful when we're possessing the ball and creating chances and that's kind of our best defense. Hopefully we'll be able to accomplish that for relatively large stretches, even when we are on the road, in the league and in the (CONCACAF) Champions League."

Another strength, Wingert said, is the team's depth, which has been tested by injuries in the first half of the MLS season. Captain Kyle Beckerman has been sidelined with a foot injury; Jamaican international

Andy Williams has dealt with a strained hamstring; and even Wingert has missed time with a strained hamstring.

Others have stepped up, including Costa Rican international Alvario Saborio, who has seven goals in 15 appearances after spending last year at Bristol City in the English second division, while Jamison Olave and Javier Morales were both selected for the MLS All-Star Game against Manchester United.

A deep roster is also critical to success in the Champions League. Real Salt Lake is in Group A with Panama's Arabe Unido and the winners of Preliminary Round series between Mexico's Cruz Azul and Panama's San Francisco, as well as Motagua from Honduras and Canada's Toronto FC. A year ago, only the Columbus Crew from the United States advanced out of the Group Stage. RSL is hoping that changes this year.

"I do think one of the major keys to a competition like this is definitely having some depth, especially because we're in the heart of our [regular] season when we're starting off," Wingert said. "There's going to most likely be some injuries you have to deal with. The deeper you have the more chance you have at being successful in the competition."

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