SANDY, Utah – Real Salt Lake are nearing the end of their marathon 14-game, 56-day run that started back on Aug. 7. This past week’s games – a 3-2 win over Árabe Unido in Panama and a 1-1 draw against the Colorado Rapids at home – represented games 11 and 12 of that stretch.
The defending champs have a quick turnaround with a Tuesday evening Champions League matchup in Toronto before heading to New England for a league game against the Revolution.
Although the team continues to play at a remarkably high level, and is scraping by with results, those who follow Real Salt Lake closely can’t help but notice that the schedule is catching up with them. They don’t have quite the spring in their step that they had back in May, June and July.
If they can survive this week, though, the schedule becomes more or less normal for the remaining four weeks of the season.
The Streak Goes On
Real Salt Lake’s home unbeaten streak was preserved with a stoppage-time goal that defender Nat Borchers headed past Colorado ‘keeper Matt Pickens. The goal pushed the streak to 24 league games, and to 30 games in all competitions.
Unfortunately, the shutout streak did not survive. At 568 minutes, though, it did last long enough to eclipse the third-longest streak in league history, beating the streak that RSL had earlier this year by one minute.
Nick Rimando’s personal shutout streak continues on at 429 minutes, as he was not in net against the Rapids.
Borchers' Prowess, on Both Ends
Nat Borchers was the unlikely hero on Saturday. While his 93rd-minute goal on a reverse header while running toward the net was impressive, his goal-stopping antics in this match have been overlooked. He made a crucial play just moments before, heading a ball away at the last second from Conor Casey, who was licking his chops at the empty net just a few yards in front of him.
Teammate Pablo Campos good-naturedly quipped that Borchers was stopping balls on both ends. Earlier in the second half, Campos struck a ball that looked to be headed for the net only to have Borchers leg get in the way as the defender tried to contort his body to avoid the contact.
Youngsters Step Up, Again
After a quality performance in Panama by rookie Chris Schuler, RSL saw another couple of young players step up for a big outing for the squad.
“[The result was rewarding] especially when you play two young players in what are arguably the most critical positions in Jean [Alexandre] and Collen [Warner],” head coach Jason Kreis said after the game.
“Especially Jean, last few weeks for me has been fantastic in training, and it’s probably unfortunate that he’s behind the captain [Kyle Beckerman] in the rotation.”
After the dust settled, Real Salt Lake are still left looking for answers following the confusion of a handball call that was later reversed, and ended up being a drop-ball situation just to the left of the Colorado goal.
“He just didn't have his best game,” Kreis said of referee Ramon Hernandez. “He's a decent referee. I've seen him referee before when I thought he was really sharp and managed the game well. I don't think it was his best night tonight.
"Not sure how you'd make a penalty call like that and then change your mind. It's honestly puzzling to me. I honestly don't know the answer. I don't know what the penalty was for, never got that answer.”