SANDY, Utah — The second half of Real Salt Lake's 1-1 tie against the LA Galaxy on Saturday was not the best-played 45 minutes of soccer you'll see from either team.
“It was a bit sloppy both ways,” RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy told reporters. “Probably not the most entertaining game to watch.”
Added defender Nat Borchers: “We just seemed to run out of gas in the second half.”
What happened? Salt Lake players theorized that part of the problem may have been the altitude – not just the Galaxy coming from sea level to about 4,500 feet, but RSL doing the same.
“It can be a bit difficult when you go into this preseason for a long time and you're away from Salt Lake,” said Grabavoy. And it's true that not only did RSL train mostly in Arizona and California, but their first two games were in Los Angeles and Santa Clara, Calif.
“Sometimes the altitude can eat at you as well, the home team, when you're away for so long like that,” Grabavoy said. “And it seemed like we didn't really have the energy in the attack to make that all-out run and get ourselves in a good spot.”
Defensively, the Claret-and-Cobalt struggled less with the Galaxy attack than then did when the two met two weeks ago. Robbie Keane's 34th-minute goal was the only shot on target LA had on Saturday; on March 8, they had nine.
But offensively, RSL looked less sharp than they did in the first meeting, as well as last week's 3-3 tie with the San Jose Earthquakes.
The turning point might have been when forward Joao Plata — who nearly scored in the second minute and assisted on Alvaro Saborio's goal in the 19th minute — went down with a hamstring injury 28 minutes into the game and exited eight minutes later.
Early word is that he suffered a moderate hamstring strain; there was no immediate word on how long Plata, who already has two goals and two assists in two-and-one-third games, will be out.
“It is a little concerning,” RSL coach Jeff Cassar said. “Joao and Sabo are a partnership that's going really well.”
The coach praised the play of substitute Olmes Garcia but added, “It's tough to come in when you're cold and you weren't prepared to come in.”
Cassar said that's his primary goal for the upcoming week of training, heading into a match against undefeated Toronto FC next Saturday.
“We'll get Sabo and Garcia working together this week, making sure they have a nice partnership,” said the first-year head coach.
And they'll have another week of practice in the mountains.
“It wasn't our greatest game, but I think that usually happens when it's our first game back in the altitude,” RSL captain Kyle Beckerman noted. “So hopefully, we'll get more acclimatized to it this week and be raring to go next week.”
Notably, none of the Salt Lake players were hanging their heads in the locker room after Saturday's game.
“Four points, home and away with the Galaxy, we'll take that all day,” Beckerman said.