Blame the layoff. Blame the opposing crowd. Blame the turf. Blame the referees if you want, but the truth about Real Salt Lake’s 2-0 loss to the Seattle Sounders on Friday night was that for the first time in nearly three months, the team was simply outplayed.
After giving up a goal to Obafemi Martins in the third minute, RSL could never recover and would go on to give up the lead in both the Western Conference and the Supporters' Shield race.
“I think it is unimportant really to talk about the refereeing. What is more important for me is what we could have done differently,” said RSL head coach Jason Kreis after his team was shown six yellow cards to only one for Seattle.
“What I would like to see our players do differently [is] to handle the situation differently. Obviously to give up a goal three minutes in that started with a throw-in is not good enough for us. … not good enough. Whenever you give away a goal in front of 60,000 people, with a very good team like that, you are going to be in for a difficult night. I think for the most part it was a difficult night. I honestly think we got out-competed.”
RSL was coming off a two-week layoff before Friday. And while the break was a welcome relief from the rigors of an MLS season, the team that stepped on the field looked rusty.
“I do, I think it played a factor,” said Kreis of the time off. “I think it contributed to some sloppy performances, a little bit loose with the ball, a little bit lackadaisical in our efforts, and again, I think we got out-competed.”
The defense in particular looked out of sync, especially in the game’s opening minutes.
“I think we were rusty. We couldn’t get any rhythm,” said defender Nat Borchers. “Guys were like second-guessing their passing, expecting guys to be in different spots and passing the ball out of bounds sometimes.”
Without making excuses, several of the RSL players knew they simply got beat by a very good, very emotional team that had an amazing crowd backing it.
“I just think we weren’t sharp enough tonight. And if you are not sharp against a team like Seattle they can really break and are really dangerous on the counter,” said RSL captain Kyle Beckerman. “That was the key tonight. We just weren’t at our best and we lost to a team that is really good, in their place – all credit to them.”
“They did a good job of getting after us and we didn’t do a good job of dealing with it,” said defender Chris Wingert.
Now, for the first time in months, RSL is looking up in the standings. But the team knows that as long as it rebounds quickly, there is a very strong probability they will see the Sounders again.
“I said earlier this week I don’t think that we saw the best of Seattle when we beat them the two times in Salt Lake, and tonight was the best of Seattle,” added Kreis. “Let’s be fair, it wasn’t the best of Real Salt Lake, so when we see the best of both teams maybe we have a different result.”