There's one very simple reason why Real Salt Lake has struggled since the middle of May – they're not scoring goals.
Through the first 11 games of the 2014 season, RSL scored a whopping 23 goals (2.01 per game). In the seven games since then, RSL have scored four goals (.57 per game). And two of those came on penalty kicks in a 2-1 win over New England on July 4.
In the first 11 games, RSL was shut out once. In the last seven games, RSL has been shut out four times. But the team doesn't seem to be panicking.
“I feel like we talk about that every year at a certain point,” defender Tony Beltran told reporters. “We trust our forwards. We trust our midfielders. We know they're capable of finishing chances when they get them. For whatever reason they're not going in right now.”
Saturday's 1-0 loss to the LA Galaxy epitomized the trouble the Claret-and-Cobalt have had getting goals. RSL dominated the statistics and the possession but couldn't get the ball in the net.
“I thought we controlled the game,” goalkeeper Nick Rimando told reporters. “Our possession was good. Movement was good. We created a lot of chances, we just didn't put them away.”
Three of Salt Lake's forwards – Devon Sandoval, Robbie Findley and Olmes Garcia – have yet to score a goal this season (Sandoval and Findley have both been rehabbing after offseason surgeries). And RSL coach Jeff Cassar told reporters he needs more from his forwards.
“Absolutely,” he said. “We've got to just keep putting them in the position to do that.”
But at the same time, he didn't put all the pressure on the forwards.
“Scoring chances don't just come from the forwards,” he said. “It comes from the build-up. Getting numbers forward. We need that final pass to not just be close, but to be perfect, so that they're then able to do their thing.”
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Clearly, the team is missing Alvaro Saborio, who broke a bone in his foot while training with the Costa Rican national team pre-World Cup and will be out another two to three months. Saborio had six goals in just 10 appearances this season. Forward Joao Plata leads with seven goals; followed by midfielder Javier Morales (five) and midfielder Luke Mulholland (four).
Despite the drought, RSL is tied for sixth in the league in scoring.
“And that's without our leading scorer for a good portion of the season,” Cassar said. “So that means everyone's going to have to pick up the difference, not just the forwards but the midfielders.”
And Cassar insists he's not overly concerned about the scoring drought.
“We're creating chances,” he said. “It's not like we're not. That's the most important thing. The goals will come. A lot of times they come in bunches.
"But, really, the thing I'm most concerned with is the way we're playing and the way we're putting ourselves in the position to score.”