SEATTLE – By the time Real Salt Lake step on the field next Thursday night for the second leg of the Western Conference Semifinals, it will have been more than a calendar month since their last goal in any competition.
It will have been 422 minutes, at kickoff. It will have been the regular season, the playoffs and the CONCACAF Champions League.
It will have been no big deal.
“None at all,” Jason Kreis said when asked if he was concerned following his side’s scoreless draw at CenturyLink Field against the Seattle Sounders. “How am I going to be concerned when we walked away with a 0-0 draw in an unbelievably difficult place to play against an unbelievably difficult team to play against?”
That was the refrain in the RSL locker room afterward, from the front to the back. The idea is, they’re still creating plenty of looks. And eventually, one of them – or maybe two or three – will find the back of the net.
“Keep doing the same thing,” said midfielder Kyle Beckerman, who set up several of said chances with some slick passing for an RSL midfield that was very sharp on the evening. “We’re creating chances, and we feel that we have the guys up top who can score goals. They’re a good team, so it’s gonna be hard to break them down, which is what we’re trying to do. It’s a tight affair.”
That it is, and that it has been between these two sides. They’ve now played four times this season, and three of the encounters have ended 0-0. The fourth was 1-0 to the Claret-and-Cobalt thanks to a Fabián Espíndola goal.
“It just happens,” said striker Álvaro Saborío, who led the team with 17 goals this season, the most recent coming in a 4-0 September thrashing of Chivas USA. “We didn’t score, but we have a lot of confidence in ourselves, and we think that we can score goals. We have to be more patient in front of the goal.”
Espíndola says he'll be ready
Espíndola provided the last two goals for RSL with a quickfire brace against the LA Galaxy in early October, but has been hobbled since then with a balky left hamstring.
After 45 hard minutes on Friday, he made what Kreis called “a good decision” and asked to come out at halftime. The idea, the striker says, is to make sure he’s good to go for the second leg.
“I was trying to push to my limits – I wanted to play,” Espíndola said. “But I was trying to be smart, so that I would be ready for the next game.”