SANDY, Utah – Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis has said it many times: "Soccer can be a cruel sport."
That he had to say it again Tuesday night, though, doesn't make it any less true.
Despite a statistically strong showing, the Claret-and-Cobalt were held to a 0-0 draw against Costa Rica's Herediano, allowing the visitors to go through at RSL's expense.
"It's very disappointing, but I feel like we did good on the field," said midfielder Luis Gil. "We did some positive things, but we just couldn't find the back of the net. That's soccer, you know. You do everything right, but it is what the score is."
RSL did create chances. They outshot the visitors 18-6. They had 11 corner kicks to two, 26 crosses from open play compared to Herediano's 10, and retained 69% of possession. But with Herediano packing it in defensively, it made things tough.
"The team played really good," said forward Fabián Espíndola. "I had my chance, I didn't score and the defense played really good. I think it's a little bit of my fault in that case. The defense did really good, right? And we played right and we didn't score."
Espíndola came up empty with his best chance of the night in the 6th minute as he beat the Herediano goalkeeper Leo Moreira with a touch to the left, but pushed his off-balance shot off the top of the crossbar with the goal at his mercy.
"We played a very good game, but we just didn't finish," said Gil.
After having several good chances in the opening minutes, RSL began feeling a little pressure to put one in the net.
"I think it is always going to be a little mentally frustrating," said Kreis. "We had some clear chances and we don't take them, but I think our guys played all-effort all the way through it.
"Herediano made it very, very difficult. Obviously in the second half, literally, 11 players almost in their penalty box. It's always going to be difficult to score when you are playing an opponent like that. I didn't expect that. I expected Herediano to come out and play a little bit more soccer than that. I didn't think they would muddle up the game like that."
But that is how the Costa Ricans played, and as has been the case for many RSL frustrations, it was their showing in final third of the field that let them down.
"Yeah, we went for it. We put in a lot of effort and created some good chances. We couldn’t quite find that final pass. There was a little lack of quality in the final third and it really hurt us tonight," said midfielder Will Johnson.
Team captain Kyle Beckerman knows they let one slip through their grasp.
“It’s a tough one to take. We created enough chances to score four or five tonight, but we didn’t and so we’re not moving on," he said.