For a time, not much seemed to be going right for Real Salt Lake.
What a difference four days can make.
After watching its 11-week run atop the Major League Soccer standings get flushed by the wayside after a trio of disastrous outings, Salt Lake's defensive swagger returned last week as the Utah side earned consecutive shutouts of foes Seattle and Portland.
"We made it very clear to our players that we wanted to get back to the basics and establish a foundation," Real boss Jason Kreis said. "I think we did that Wednesday night in not allowing Seattle to score against us, and then put it all together tonight (Saturday). It feels like we've moved a step in the right direction."
It both matches, Real did exactly what Kreis said in getting back to basics. Making smarter decisions, playing with confidence, and sharp passing, the trademark things the club has been known for during its four year run as one of MLS's top squads.
Salt Lake dominated possession in both matches, outclassing the Sounders and Timbers at a combined clip of 64.4 percent.
How did the Claret-and-Cobalt do it?
By making smart passes, high-percentage passes that enable it to work the ball up the field in the attack and keep it away from both teams attacking players.
Real made 989 passes in the two matches, with a passing accuracy of 85.5 percent. To put that in perspective, Seattle and Portland made a combined 534, just over half.
Its superior possession and passing game allowed RSL to command play in both directions as it limited both teams to a combined one shot on goal, and just 13 total shots.
While RSL's offensive attack couldn't break through against the Sounders, despite replays showing Alvaro Saborio's 52nd minute goal clearly not being offside, the Salt Lake attack exploded in the second half against the Timbers.
Saborio shredded Portland in the final half-hour, completing his first MLS hat track in stellar fashion, including a pair of goals barely two minutes apart.
"The first one was really special, wasn't it," Kreis said. "The way that he got up and headed it across the goal, the whole face of the goal and it hits the post and goes in. It was really, really special. He's a guy, for me, that's just had a lot of injustices lately with the goals that have been called back against him."
With the monkey seemingly off their back at last, Salt Lake players talked after the win about the importance of not getting too high after the stirring win.
"It was mounting a little bit after a few losses, and everyone was freaking out, and it's understandable," RSL defender Chris Wingert said. "We don't want to get too high or too low from the way everybody else is reacting. Whether it's great things or bad things, we're trying to stay on an even keel."
With its third, and final, regular season meeting with San Jose looming this weekend, keeping an even keel and going back to work is exactly what Salt Lake needs to do.
You can follow Justin Johnson on Twitter at: @jjohnson801 or email him at email@example.com.