Given the circumstances, the result could have been a whole lot worse.
Real Salt Lake, playing with a depleted roster and patchwork lineup, allowed two late goals in a 2-0 road loss Saturday night against FC Dallas. It was the first real test of RSL’s improved roster depth, as the Claret-and-Cobalt played without nine potential starters because of national team duties and injuries.
“Disappointed with the result, but I’m pretty pleased with the guys’ fight tonight,” RSL head coach Jason Kreis told reporters after the game.
Every offseason move, every trade and signing, was meant to add depth to a roster that lacked a skilled bench last season. RSL’s starting XI included offseason additions Cole Grossman, Joao Plata, Lovell Palmer, Robbie Findley and Josh Saunders. Colombian acquisition Olmes Garcia, and rookies Devon Sandoval and John Stertzer all came on as substitutes in the second half.
Saunders made five saves in his RSL debut, but he was beaten in the 71st minute by Fabián Castillo. Ten minutes later, Saunders, who played in three of the past four MLS Cup finals, winning twice, failed to maintain possession under pressure from Dallas’ Jackson, who slid in to strip Saunders of the ball and roll it into the net.
The defeat spoiled the first appearance this season of RSL mainstay defender Nat Borchers, who returned from surgery on his right quad tendon. Borchers looked strong. He saved a goal in the 22nd minute when Kenny Cooper looked to have a sure goal on an open net, and he steadied RSL’s back line while under continuous pressure by Dallas’ speedy forwards.
“I’m definitely finding my fitness,” Borchers said. “Coming down to Dallas is trial by fire, playing against a good counterattacking team. I thought I was a little bit sloppy with the ball. But I feel very good right now, which is a positive.”
RSL's corps of newcomers nearly brought them back into the match thanks to two late chances. Sandoval, who came on for the final 17 minutes, took aim at an open net, but Dallas defender Matt Hedges got a foot on the shot in the 77th minute. On the ensuing corner kick, Garcia, making his RSL debut, put his diving header off the right post.
The loss dropped RSL's record in the state of Texas to 0-19-3 all-time, and 0-11-2 against Dallas across all competitions. RSL, now 1-2-1 on the young season, have played three of four matches on the road.
“I thought we did really well tonight, given the circumstances,” Borchers said. “A lot of us hadn’t played together as the first XI up to this point. Everybody busted their butts and covered for each other.”