Jeff Cassar: Despite Joao Plata's return, turnovers cost Real Salt Lake

COMMERCE CITY, Colo.—Facing their Rocky Mountain Cup rivals for the second time this season, Real Salt Lake fell in their first and only 2016 road trip to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, with Jermaine Jones’ second-half goal providing the difference in a 1-0 victory by Colorado.

Tied with Colorado on points in the Supporter’s Shield standings entering Saturday night’s match, the rivalry loss was just Salt Lake’s second through nine games played. Real Salt Lake head coach Jeff Cassar credited turnovers as the reason for his team’s offensive lethargy through early stretches of its latest defeat.

“We turned the ball over in core areas which led to us retreating back to the goal. You never want that,” Cassar said. “With that being said, I feel like a draw on the night was more accurate. I didn’t feel like they were the better team, they just put away their chance.”

The Rapids out-shot Salt Lake, 17-13, but Jones' strike proved to be the difference. Cassar blamed that goal, again, on turnovers.

“We turned the ball over about 35 yards away from goal. We had it contained and we just didn’t do a good job,” Cassar said. “Jones was dangerous all night. We had spoken about it and probably didn’t deal with it great.”

Cassar’s side finally found an offensive boost with the return of playmaker Joao Plata, who made an appearance as a substitution in the 58th minute following his recovery from a Grade 1 hip flexor strain suffered during training in the third week of April.  

The Ecuadorian showed promise from the beginning, setting up Kyle Beckerman’s shot on target in the 61st minute, which forced a diving save from Rapids goalkeeper Zac MacMath.

“I thought [Plata] gave us a big spark,” Cassar said. “We were planning on bringing him in to have that spark; we just didn’t want to have to do it down 1-0. His movement caused some problems tonight.”

Plata helped the Salt Lake attack pump in nine more shots (four on target) as the visitors continued to look for an equalizer until the final minute of extra time.

“I think it was there for us,” Beckerman said. “I had a couple good chances myself. I should have buried the one. Give credit to Zac [MacMath].”

Despite the result, Cassar seemed satisfied with the overall effort and performance put forth by his team against a rebuilt Colorado side which has shown to be much improved over previous years.

“It was a hard fought game,” he said. “First-place teams battling it out. We lost, we’ve got to move on. That’s what it is.”