Lack of goals catches up to RSL in frustrating elimination
SANDY, Utah – Real Salt Lake's disappointing playoff elimination at the hands of the Seattle Sounders didn't require a great deal of explaing from head coach Jason Kreis.
"You have to score goals to win games," he said. "It really comes down to a simple game. If you don't score a goal, you're not going to win games, and you've got to win to advance."
Kreis may have overly simplified one of the most difficult things to do in sports – score a goal in the game of soccer. As the Sounders' Mario Martínez showed in scoring the series-clinching goal, It takes a little bit of magic, a moment of brilliance, occasions which eluded the Claret-and-Cobalt not only against Seattle, but all down the stretch run.
Real's last goal came on Oct. 6 against the LA Galaxy, thanks to Fabián Fabián Espíndola. Through the rest of that game and for five more, RSL then played 513 minutes of scoreless soccer.
"The problem was we couldn't score in the last five matches, and you have to score to win a game," said midfield playmaker Javier Morales. "Tonight, we tried, we tried so hard but we just couldn't get it in."
It wasn't as if the Claret-and-Cobalt were lacking in opportunities. They mustered 14 shots against the Sounders, including nine on frame, but the ball still didn't hit the back of the net.
"It was a game where there were chances there, and they just weren't taken properly," said Kreis.
So what went wrong? How did a team that averaged 1.35 goals per game, and nearly a goal and a half per game before the wall was built in front of the net, stop scoring?
"I think it's important to try to figure out exactly why you're not scoring those goals," said Kreis. "For me creating the right number of chances. Maybe a few decisions were wrong in the final third about where the ball needed to go and when it needed to go.
"I think the typical stance that most people will take is it falls on the forwards, but not for me. It falls on everybody to create good goalscoring chances and to take good goalscoring chances."
With the blame being laid across the entire team, what was missing? Where was that final moment of brilliance? It is a conundrum puzzling not only the coach and fans, but the players themselves.
"It just didn't quite happen for us down the stretch here," said midfielder Will Johnson. "I can't put my finger on why the goals dried up. It was a little bit strange to be honest with you… I think we had chances. We just weren't getting the bounces down the stretch. Weren't getting any calls. It is just difficult to put your finger on why.
"This team scored a lot of goals over the years. It seems bizarre that all of a sudden we couldn't find the back of the net."