The Lions have roared.
Faced with a grueling three-match, eight-day gauntlet, Real Salt Lake flexed its muscle and now stands alone atop the Western Conference table.
Starting with a scintillating rally on the road against Portland and then capped with a commanding performance against arch-rival Colorado, Salt Lake has taken any question marks about how it would start the season and tossed them out the window.
"In every good performance we've had this year it's been about all the details and being really focused on being our best," Real boss Jason Kreis said. "We're not too concerned with our opponents, and I think that's something that we can take some pride in and continue to try to embrace. If we really focus on how we play, both with the ball and without, then we might be able to force other teams to adjust to us no matter which building we're in."
In the week's middle match against expansion newcomer Montreal, Real turned in a fairly lackluster effort, gaining the result because of an early-match penalty strike by Paulo Jr. It was an uninspiring performance, and both Kreis and his players stated as much, as well as their desire to come out with more energy and enthusiasm against the Rapids on Saturday night.
"Tonight (Saturday) we just came out with the right energy, the right mentality, and it wasn't there on Wednesday," defender Tony Beltran said. "On Wednesday I think we were losing a lot of 50-50 balls, a lot of second balls, and giving away a lot of passes that are normally easy passes. So I think we just did a better job at focusing at the beginning, coming out and establishing possession early and we built it from there."
In vintage RSL form during the opening half on Saturday, the Lions commanded possession of the ball by a nearly 2-1 advantage and surged ahead after just 20 minutes, and then slammed the door on the first leg of the three-match Rocky Mountain Cup series just prior to the hour mark.
"It was difficult; it was a difficult schedule against tough teams," said midfielder Luis Gil of the three-match marathon week. "We battled through it and I felt like we didn't have our best play the game before (against Montreal) and now we came out, we were in our home. We had to show them what we were here for and we've got to defend our house."
And defend it they did.
In two home matches through the week, Real earned consecutive shutouts and allowed only three shots on goal with four of the Lions' five defensive starters playing all 180 minutes.
With the marathon week now behind them, RSL now turns its attention to a big early season clash with Sporting Kansas City (5-0-0) on Saturday at Livestrong Sporting Park, taking with it a chance to set a new benchmark for the best record to open a season.
You can follow Justin Johnson on Twitter at: @jjohnson801 or email him at email@example.com.