Coming off a first victory in their home opener, Real Salt Lake had every reason to feel confident heading into their match Saturday against league-leading unbeaten FC Dallas. However, it fell apart from nearly the start of the game, and Real went down to a hard 3-0 defeat at the Cotton Bowl that left the expansion club soul-searching.
"We weren't there. One team came out to play tonight and that was Dallas," said Real midfielder Clint Mathis. "You have to give them credit for coming out. At the same time we need to look at ourselves and say what are we doing out there."
Said defender Eddie Pope, who was sent off with a direct red card late in the match: "I don't think we had a very good performance on the road to say the least."
It took FC Dallas just four minutes to open the scoring after Carlos Ruiz was fouled on the edge of the penalty area. Richard Mulrooney bent the resulting free kick over the wall and inside D.J. Countess's right-hand post.
"It's kind of like a gift right off the start," said RSL head coach John Ellinger. "In this league those are gimmes."
The Real defense was then turned around all night long in trying to deal with the FCD three-man attack of Eddie Johnson, Carlos Ruiz and Ronnie O'Brien.
"We tried to deal with that [4-3-3] by having our outside midfielders pinch in but the didn't do a very good job of that," said Ellinger.
Ellinger also pointed out some weapons in the Dallas arsenal that any team would have trouble dealing with. "Eddie Johnson is probably the fastest guy on the U.S. national team right now," said the Real boss. "So you play a ball over the top there is a pretty good chance he is going to beat somebody to it."
The brightest spot of the night came in the first half when Mathis stole a pass from Eddie Johnson in the 22nd minute and ran uncontested 30 yards into space before slotting a through ball to Kreis on the right side. But after Kreis returned the favor to Mathis, he half-volleyed his right-footed shot just high.
The second half also started out on a positive note as Kreis and Mathis put together a string of nice passes leading to a Kreis shot but FC Dallas 'keeper Scott Garlick was able tip the ball out of danger. It was a disappointing homecoming for the Real captain, who returned to the city where he played the first nine seasons in MLS.
"It comes down to effort. You have to put a great effort in week in and week out, we put a good effort in the first week, second week we don't, the third week we put a great effort in and the fourth week we don't, so it's effort," Kreis said. "The second part is confidence -- we have to be confident enough to play soccer out there."
Mathis said the confidence actually did come. "After we were a man down is when we actually started getting confident and trying to hold the ball, but 3-0 is a little late for that," he said.
RSL look to turn things back around next weekend as they play host to San Jose.
"We will be back at home and we will be expecting another big crowd behind us, so emotions will running high again," said Kreis.
Ron Goode is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.