SANDY, Utah — Barely 10 minutes into their match against the Columbus Crew on Saturday, Real Salt Lake were already scratching their heads in disbelief. Shocked to find themselves down 2-0, they didn’t know how to react or even how to explain their poor performance so early into the match.
“I don’t really know,” said second-half substitute Arturo Alvarez. “I think it’s very uncharacteristic for this team to give up two quick goals.”
RSL tried to dig themselves out of the hole and get back in the game, but ultimately were unable to do so. They seemed to struggle with the little things — simple passes and simple touches of the ball.
Was that a case of simply having an off night, or perhaps a sign of the pressure that comes from being behind two goals so early on?
“I think it’s a combination of both,” said defender Chris Wingert after the match. “Maybe you are forcing things a little bit because you are down and you feel like you’ve got to press the issue a bit. But there were 80 minutes left and we knew we needed to stay calm and play some good soccer, and we weren’t able to do that.”
“Those two goals killed us at the beginning,” added Alvarez, “and we couldn’t get our rhythm going.”
As the team went into the locker room at halftime, head coach Jason Kreis was faced with a decision of whether to make changes coming out of the break.
“When you get into halftime and you are down 2-0, you have to consider whether there needs to be a couple of changes,” explained Kreis. “I was a little more interested to see what that group could do, and how they would respond to that difficult circumstance after we get to settle them down and talk a little bit at halftime.”
As for the two goals, Wingert owned up to his responsibility on both of the plays.
“There were two guys coming,” said Winger, describing the buildup to the first score, “and Borchers played the ball, so I slid over to his man, and they played back post to Eddie Gaven, which was my man. In retrospect, Borchers took a pretty good angle to cut off the pass. I thought the simple pass was to play it back to Hahnemann, so I slid over and Eddie played it late. I probably could have stayed.
“The second one, I ended up on [Tommy] Heinemann. Obviously he’s bigger than me, but I need to do a better job of just trying to disrupt him a little more so he wasn’t able to get a solid header on it.”
However, in defense of Wingert, the breakdown started much earlier. Columbus put numbers forward, put pressure on RSL’s back line, and Crew midfielder Robbie Rogers was hardly challenged as he delivered the crucial assists.
“He’s certainly a dynamic player,” Wingert said of Rogers. “You don’t want to take anything away from him — obviously he’s a talented player. He gave us a lot of trouble tonight, and we needed to do a better job.”
For now, the team feels like the best thing to do is look forward to its upcoming midweek match in Kansas City.
“I think we have to just forget about this game,” said Alvarez. “We have a quick turnaround, which is good. We have the chance to do things right against Kansas City.”