MANCHESTER, England (AP) – Real Salt Lake has lost back-to-back MLS matches for the first time in more than a year, and suddenly there's a feeling of panic.
The New York Red Bulls have just one win in their last nine league games, but they're playing with a sense of optimism.
Salt Lake tries to avoid losing three straight for the first time in four years Saturday night in its first meeting of the season with a Red Bulls team coming off an impressive showing in a prestigious overseas tournament.
After falling to Columbus 2-0 last Saturday, RSL (9-5-6) lost by the same score to Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday to drop back-to-back league games for the first time since April 2010, a span of 44 matches.
There weren't many positives in either performance for a team that hadn't lost in its previous seven matches (3-0-4).
Salt Lake, which entered the game against the Crew having scored 12 goals in its previous four games, has been shut out in consecutive games for only the second time this season. In both defeats, the club surrendered the two goals in a span of five minutes.
"My morale is real bad," coach Jason Kreis said. "We need a huge game on Saturday, a huge effort, we need these guys to pull together and give absolutely everything they have because to have three losses in a row would be monstrously bad."
RSL, which is still holding on to one of the final playoff spots, hasn't lost three straight league matches since a four-game skid in July 2007.
"It's a must-win game," midfielder Arturo Alvarez said of facing the Red Bulls. "They've kind of been struggling as well and it's a great chance for us to get back on track."
Like RSL, New York is also in the top 10 in the standings, but it has hardly been playing like a playoff contender lately. The Red Bulls (6-5-12) have earned two points in their last four MLS matches and are 1-3-5 in their past nine.
New York hasn't had a league match since playing to a 2-all draw with FC Dallas on July 23. Thierry Henry scored his 11th goal, tied for the league lead, in the 85th minute to help salvage a point.
Although the Red Bulls have dropped from first place to third in the Eastern Conference over the last eight weeks, they're brimming with confidence after winning the Emirates Cup last weekend.
New York, which had relatively low expectations heading into the tournament, defeated Paris Saint-Germain and tied Arsenal to win the coveted trophy in London.
"It should be a boost confidence-wise for the rest of the season," coach Hans Backe told the Red Bulls' official website.
It could be tough for Backe's club to build on its performance at Rio Tinto Stadium, where RSL is 7-2-3.
Real, 2-0-4 all-time against the Red Bulls in Utah, went 1-0-1 in the series last season. Fabian Espindola, RSL's leader with six goals, had the only score in the two matchups.