RSL rue set-piece lapse in clash of MLS heavyweights

Nat Borchers and Roger Espinoza clash

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SANDY, Utah – Real Salt Lake lost the so-called Clash of the Titans on Saturday night, falling 1-0 to Sporting Kansas City at Livestrong Sporting Park in a match many had branded the game of the year thus far.

RSL allowed a stunning 11 corner kicks to Sporting KC, a stat that would ultimately make the difference in the match as Aurelien Collin nodded home Graham Zusi’s service in the 63rd minute. And although it wasn’t the result they were looking for, the visitors were pleased with the grind-it-out performance that they had put in up until that point, especially considering the opponent and venue.

“Tough game,” goalkeeper Nick Rimando explained to Salt Lake ABC-affiliate KTVX after the match. “Tough place to play, but I thought that the boys were confident. I thought we played good. Great effort out there.”

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Sporting KC pressured the ball and limited RSL’s chances, which followed what they’ve done to each of their opponents in 2012. However, RSL also limited Kansas City’s attacking punch, holding a team that leads the league with 19 shots per game to just 10 shots on goal.

Still, those efforts were rendered moot by one corner kick and one timely run to the back post.

After wasting corner after corner until that point, Collin was unmarked to meet Zusi’s cross after it appeared that Alvaro Saborio failed to match his run into the six-yard area.

“It’s disappointing that it comes down to one play off of a corner kick that cost us the match, but all-in-all I’m pleased with the guys effort again,” Coach Jason Kreis told KTVX.

Kreis admitted set pieces were an area of focus for his squad, something that they’ve talked about extensively in the past.

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“We said to our guys many times, there are very few chances that we give away in games, and often times it’ll come down to a dead-ball situation where we lose just a little bit of focus,” he said. “And it cost us three points.”

The play in question occurred on one of just two corner kicks in the second half. It appeared that RSL had weathered the real storm as Sporting KC whipped in a whopping nine corner kicks in the first half, with RSL fending them off rather well.

“We knew we were going to have to defend and weather some storms,” midfielder Kyle Beckerman said. “That’s kind of what they do. They just pressure. They put it in your half and pressure, pressure, pressure, and they live for corner kicks and free kicks and that type of stuff.”

The RSL captain appeared to rue the defending on that fateful play, but downplayed the overall meaning of the game despite the hype, putting the outcome into focus.

“We’d love to see these guys again,” said Beckerman. “That’ll drive us to work even harder and come back and hopefully get another chance at them in the playoffs. We’ll lick our wounds and come back and learn from it, and work harder.”

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