Saturday night’s 2-1 loss against the LA Galaxy at The Home Depot Center was not the outcome Real Salt Lake desired, but it did provide a good measuring stick as to where the team stand as it heads toward the playoffs.
The match gave head coach Jason Kreis and his men a chance to prove that they have the ability to compete with the cream of the crop in MLS, and only an own goal kept them from coming away with a result.
“Tonight, we stretched LA to their wits end,” said Kreis. “They are the best team in the league. They have the most points for a reason and I think we gave them a pretty difficult challenge tonight, so I am pleased.”
While there is clearly some work left to do, RSL showed several sparks of attacking quality against the Suporters’ Shield front-runners.
One of those sparks came just before halftime, when midfielder Javier Morales – in his first start since his return – took a corner from right of goal and delivered a quality ball into the box. Striker Fabián Espíndola got himself on the end of it and directed the ball past ‘keeper Josh Saunders for the opening goal of the match.
The goal was Espíndola’s 10th of the season, pulling him level with frontline teammate Álvaro Saborío for the team’s scoring lead – the first time in club history history that RSL have had two players total at least 10 goals in the same season.
The Galaxy have been the most dominant team in the league throughout the current campaign, especially at home, where they are unbeaten in nearly a year. For RSL, sending the league leaders into the break on their heels was quite a pleasant surprise.
But the lead was short-lived and RSL soon found themselves on the short end of the stick after they gave up two second-half goals to the Galaxy.
First, in the 58th minute, neither RSL ‘keeper Nick Rimando nor defender Jámison Olave were able to stop Chad Barrett, who somehow managed to squeeze a shot between them from a tight angle to equalize.
Thirteen minutes later, LA fullback Todd Dunivant struck a redirected David Beckham free kick toward goal. The ball deflected off RSL defender Chris Winger before ricocheting off Nat Borcher’s leg and into the net.
“We got an own goal from Borchers and a goal that if Barrett would have hit a hundred times, he is not going to hit it again,” said Rimando. “One that I think we are there to make the play and we just don’t and [Barrett] gets a foot on it and goes in. All in all, it was a great atmosphere I thought we played well and it was a good reaction from the last game we played. We just have to keep our heads up and keep dragging along.”
The loss was the third in a row for the Claret-and-Cobalt, but it was a marked improvement from the prior two: a 4-1 loss at D.C. United and a 3-0 home defeat at the hands of the Chicago Fire.
“Obviously, we didn’t lose by three or four goals,” said Kreis. “I wanted improvement, I wanted a collective team effort, and I wanted a team that showed a little bit more discipline, more difficult to break down than we have been in the last two games, and we got all that.
“We didn’t get the result that I had hoped for, but we got a lot of hard work from the guys and we got a lot of sense of improvement.”