SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando is one clean sheet away from tying the MLS record for shutouts. He's been one game away since way back on April 19, three months ago.
Rimando has played in only five of Salt Lake's 11 games since then, and given up eight goals.
But after posting four shutouts in their first seven games, RSL have held opponents scoreless just once in their last nine games – 10 games, if you count a loss to Atlanta in US Open Cup play.
“We definitely want to get back to shutting teams out,” defender Nat Borchers told reporters. “It’s been too long. It’s been way too long. I can’t even remember the last time we did get a shutout, it’s been that long. So we definitely need to focus on that.”
The next time Rimando posts a clean sheet, he will tie retired goalkeeper Kevin Hartman for the all-time MLS shutout record with 112. If it happens on Saturday, Rimando (356 games played and counting) will have done it in 59 fewer games than Hartman (416 games played).
RSL's lack of success lately hasn't been a goalkeeping issue, whether it was Rimando or his backup, Jeff Attinella, in the nets. RSL have been battling breakdowns and struggling to defend set plays, making it tough for their goalkeepers.
The Utahns have scored just five goals in their last eight games — and two of those were on penalty kicks. The team is currently riding a 347-minute streak without scoring a goal from the run of play.
The Claret-and-Cobalt have been shut out in four of their last seven matches, and the only time they scored multiple goals was that two-PK performance against New England.
“We’re trying to just concentrate on several areas, whether it’s scoring, defending, set plays,” RSL coach Jeff Cassar told reporters. “We’re always trying to continue to get better in every area.
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“But I think if we continue to play the way we are and get in those positions, I have 110 percent confidence in the guys that they’re going to start feeling it.”
After a 1-0 loss to the Galaxy last Saturday — a game RSL generally controlled while failing to put the ball in the net — Cassar said a similar effort at home against Vancouver on Saturday (10 pm ET, MLS LIVE) would pretty much guarantee a win.
“Without a doubt, they have a lot of individual talent,” he said about Vancouver. “[Whitecaps coach] Carl [Robinson]’s got them playing good soccer — good, attractive soccer going forward.
“With that being said, I think that a lot of times they give up a lot of the game. It’s whether you punish them when you get those opportunities. If teams don’t punish them, they stick around and they have dangerous, dangerous players in the attack and they’ve caught fire with the young players.”
Scott Pierce covers Real Salt Lake for MLSsoccer.com.