RSL midseason check-in: Closer than ever to winning 1st trophy since 2009


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SALT LAKE CITY — Real Salt Lake already has its best squad in 10 years, both statistically and according to long-time players, but the team is looking to take it a step further to compete for its first trophy since the 2009 MLS Cup.

The Claret and Cobalt are riding a 13-game unbeaten streak at the midway point of the season, with a chance to tie a franchise record for a single-season unbeaten streak with a win or draw in Montreal on Saturday.

The last time RSL went 14 games without losing was 2010, fresh off the MLS Cup win and en route to the team's highest regular season finish at second place in the Supporters' Shield standings — based on the most points regardless of conference.

RSL is tied for second place in the 2024 Supporters' Shield standings with Cincinnati at the halfway mark; 2 points short of first-place Inter Miami. There's little margin for error, however, with the always-dangerous Western Conference rival LAFC just 3 points behind and Minnesota and the two New York clubs just one point beyond that.

It has been an excellent first half of the season for RSL, but it doesn't sound like the team is satisfied with that.

"We're gonna get everyone's best game coming down the stretch, and the pressure that comes down to get into the playoffs," head coach Pablo Mastroeni said. "We need guys that come in, that are gonna raise the bar and demand that everyone get one to 2% better. It's not time to just bring in cover, we need to raise the bar."

These thoughts were in response to questions about RSL bringing in reinforcements during the summer transfer window that opens on July 18 but also apply to the current locker room, which Mastroeni said has a "stronger mentality" than last year.

The last two seasons have ended with RSL earning a bottom-half playoff spot in the Western Conference and losing in the first round.

Utah's club has the second-best odds to win the Supporters' Shield and fourth-best to win the MLS Cup at the moment, but it will take an effort equal to or greater than that of the first half of the season to bring home a trophy.

"We haven't won anything yet," was the resounding message from the team after a 5-1 thrashing of Austin FC on June 1, and Mastroeni's recent comments back up that idea, while taking it a step further in anticipating an even greater challenge from opponents in the final 17 games.

RSL's greatest weapon remains its star striker and team captain Chicho Arango. Teams have been trying to figure the Colombian forward out since his explosive entrance to MLS in 2021, yet the Golden Boot leader midway through the 2024 season is having his best year yet at the ripe age of 29.

Arango leads all MLS players with 16 goals in 17 games — three ahead of D.C. United's Christian Benteke and one shy of Alvaro Saborio's single-season RSL record in 2012.

The offense has been otherworldly for stretches this season, but the defense is holding its own, as well, despite not earning a shutout since May 15.

RSL has allowed the sixth-fewest goals in MLS while scoring the second-most on the other end behind only Miami. The result is a league-leading goal differential of +17 with 17 games to go.

RSL returns home from a two-game road trip for three straight at America First Field beginning on June 22 against the ever-impressive LA Galaxy. The homestand is followed by three in a row on the road before the Leagues Cup tournament with Liga MX begins on July 27 in Houston.

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Caleb Turner covers Real Salt Lake as the team's beat writer for KSL.com, in addition to his role where he oversees the sports team's social media accounts.

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