LEHI, Utah — While Real Salt Lake is trying to figure out how to put goals on the board after going scoreless in their last two matches, they are also trying to fine tune their typically stalwart defense.
After setting a league record for fewest goals allowed in league play a season ago (20), the team started off this season in fine form, allowing only one goal in its first four league matches.
However, in the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League finals last week, and then in the league fixture against the Portland Timbers last Saturday, RSL allowed a goal in each match. That’s not exactly what you would call “bleeding goals,” but it’s also not satisfactory to the players.
“We obviously expect better,” RSL defender Nat Borchers said. “We had a bad week – two 1-0 games. We don’t expect that out of ourselves.”
Particularly concerning to the team is how the team gave up those goals.
“They were both mental mistakes,” Borchers explained. “We weren’t following runners and we weren’t switched on when it came to set pieces. So it’s time to turn those screws a little bit tighter and defend well.”
It was after a stretch of similar mistakes in 2009 that Real Salt Lake managed to really turn the corner defensively and began to establish themselves as one of the more difficult defenses in the league to break down.With the goal-scoring drying up in recent matches, RSL need their back line to be particularly airtight.
“As long as we continue that [playing strong team defense], it will give us time to get our offense going,” captain Kyle Beckerman said.
Borchers suggested that defense will especially be a key in the upcoming match on Saturday against Chivas USA (4 pm ET, TeleFutura).
“I always expect us to be good defensively,” he said. “We put the onus on ourselves to defend first and attack secondarily.”
However, don’t expect the team to bunker in, and take an overly defensive posture.
“We don’t want to give anything away,” Borchers said. “But we’re going to be aggressive at home and try to put our stamp on the game in that first 15 minutes.”