Unfortunately for RSL, the outcome was the same as their late-season visit in 2015: a stinging defeat at a critical time.
Following Saturday's 2-1 loss, coach Jeff Cassar pulled no punches, having watched his club claw back a first-half equalizer through Justin Glad’s ricocheting rebound – RSL’s first goal since September 7 – but then give up a 72nd-minute game-winner to San Jose’s Fatai Alashe.
“In tight games, it’s certain plays. It’s set plays 90 percent of the time and finishing your opportunities, and we didn’t do either,” Cassar said. “We do have to finish our chances, and it doesn’t matter if it’s one or 10. But we have to take those chances. Someone has to step up and finish it out. It’s not enough right now. And that’s concerning, is that no one’s stepping up.”
RSL’s winless streak stretched to five matches, and they missed out on a chance – with Portland’s loss to Colorado earlier in the evening – to clinch their return to the playoffs after missing out last year.
“Listen, we can’t clinch anything if we don’t put away our opportunities and then stop simple plays that we’re in control of [like Alashe's goal], that shouldn’t ever happen,” Cassar said. “Silly foul, poor marking, poor goal. It’s just a poor play. And that concerns me, that poor plays are hurting us. Not poor play, but poor plays.”
The visitors outshot San Jose 10-2 in the second half, forcing all four of David Bingham’s saves in that timeframe, but couldn’t find a way through the Quakes’ defense. Bingham came up huge in the 60th minute with a double save on Joao Plata, who slipped unmarked for a header at close range. Even the 76th-minute insertion of Yura Movsisyan, out of the lineup due to a heel contusion, couldn’t solve the puzzle.
Since their last win, on August 26, RSL have tied Dallas and LA, two of the Western Conference’s leading contenders. But they’ve lost to Portland, Houston and San Jose, three of the four Western teams currently outside of the postseason picture.
“You have to put those teams out,” Cassar said. “We’ve now had losses to teams that are basically out of the playoffs, and that’s unacceptable. And it’s not a recipe for being successful once you get into the playoffs. So we have to do better. I think our players understand it, but now you’ve got to execute it and actually do it.”