SANDY, Utah — Last week, Real Salt Lake let a golden opportunity to stay atop the Western Conference ranks slip through their hands.
The club had two games at home against conference foes, two games that, if won, would see them continue to put distance between themselves and the defending champions LA Galaxy and then second-place San Jose, who were five points behind Real with a game in hand.
For nearly an hour in Wednesday's game against the Galaxy, it appeared RSL were going to take a gigantic leap toward their goal of winning the Supporters' Shield. Not only were the Claret-and-Cobalt already on top of the MLS table and on their way to three points, but the Quakes were trailing 1-0 at Colorado. If things held up, RSL would hold an eight-point lead when San Jose visited Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday.
HIGHLIGHTS: RSL 1, SJ 2
Over the next hour, Real not only lost to the Galaxy after holding a 2-0 lead and dominating the run of play, but San Jose scored two late goals against the Rapids to snatch a win. Three days later, Salt Lake fell to San Jose 2-1 after again having the better chances but failing to capitalize on them.
The week the media had claimed would be a great changing point for Real ended up being a nightmare for the team.
“I didn’t hear any of that," coach Jason Kreis said following the San Jose loss. "Maybe that is because I don’t read about what is written about us. Maybe there are too many people who are in the locker room that read what is written about us because it seems like every single time everyone says we are in a great situation, we lose.”
“For me, the only great situation is when you have won and then you can talk about it, about what a great situation you just presented yourself because you just won."
The cruel turn of events over the span of 72 hours was made all the more agonizing because of the way RSL lost: by making uncharacteristic mistakes.
"It's a week we'd rather forget for sure," said defender Nat Borchers, one of the players guilty of a miscue leading to an opponent's goal. "I think we played some very good soccer. We created a lot of chances in these two games, but we don't get the result. We just have to look forward and grind some results out in the future."
Obviously, the season is not over. One bad week hasn't destroyed RSL's campaign – they are still just a point behind first in the West after all. It just made things a little more difficult.
"We just need to dig deep and get back to work," said midfielder Will Johnson. "We have some things to correct, but I don't think we are too far away, just a few tweaks here and there."
So with a full week of training before traveling to face the Columbus Crew on Saturday, RSL has no choice but to put what was a week full of potential behind them and concentrate solely on what lies ahead.
"We're just leaking goals, coming from mistakes all over the field. It's not just the guys at the back," Johnson said. "We're giving teams goals, and if you want to be a championship team, you can't expect to win games 3-2. The best teams in the world win games 1-0 with good team defense, and right now, we have nothing close to good team defense."