SANDY, Utah — For the third consecutive game, and for the fifth time in their last six games, Real Salt Lake gave up at least two goals and it wound up costing them as they fell 2-1 to the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday night.
The defense allowed Steven Lenhart to get his head on two crosses whipped into the box — one from the run of play and one from a set piece — and that was all the offense the 'Quakes would need at Rio Tinto Stadium.
"When it comes to the two goals that came against us, I thought there was just some real lack of focus again and commitment to stay with marks in the box," said RSL head coach Jason Kreis. "Both balls were served into the box and headed by the same player, who was literally unmarked on both plays. It's not good enough."
What also is not good enough is that Real Salt Lake have surrendered 13 goals in their last six games. That number is even more alarming when you throw in the fact there was a 4-0 shutout of Columbus thrown into the defensive stats.
"We've been having problems out there. We just have to get together and talk about it and figure it out with what we are going to do," said center back Carlos Salcedo. "Teams are looking to play those type of balls because we have been committing the same mistake over and over. We need to learn from the mistakes."
Consistently, teams have indeed been taking advantage of balls sent in again RSL. But veteran Nat Borchers knows that at least in this game, he was at fault for allowing such easy goals.
"We talked about all year how we have to be better on set pieces. We watched the tape and knew they were taking early set pieces," said Borchers. "I hold my hand up for both of those goals. I was marking Lenhart. He just got inside of me both times, and a guy like that in the box is going to bury his chances."
It is noble of Borchers to shoulder the blame, but the leaking of goals is not only because of one player. Real Salt Lake admitted as much following the loss that left them two points behind Western Conference leaders, the Seattle Sounders.
"Look they can't just get the ball wide 50 yards from goal, clip a ball in and it's a goal. Those goals can't happen," said midfielder Ned Grabavoy. "If a team has a great individual effort or a great buildup and a guy scores a good goal — you're going to get scored on — but we can't just give up goals where they clip in a ball on a free kick. … It is these things we keep talking about that need to be cleaned up."
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So what do RSL do to try to fix their recent defensive problems? Some of the players talked about addressing those issues in training, but Kreis admitted that there is more to it than that.
"For me, we can work on it and training all we want," said Kreis, "but in the game, it just comes down to focus and commitment."