SANDY, Utah – During their four-game winless streak, Real Salt Lake actually have played some very good soccer.
They’ve been dangerous in creating scoring chances, they’ve been good with possession, and they have controlled the run of play.
But in soccer, all of that counts for nothing if you can't finish your chances. And that's exactly the problem RSL are facing.
“I think we may be pressing a bit,” said midfielder Ned Grabavoy after the team’s 0-0 draw with Seattle on Wednesday. “We are doing a pretty good job of giving ourselves chances, but we just haven’t been putting them away. And I think as it goes on, and we keep missing chance after chance, maybe we are pressing even more.”
And heading into Saturday’s home matchup with Portland (9 pm ET, watch LIVE online), RSL will be missing one of their best at actually putting the ball in the net, as Fabián Espíndola (six goals and three assists) is suspended vs. the Timbers for yellow-card accumulation.
“There’s one thing that most people don’t know about Fabián: He doesn’t like to lose,” said RSL head coach Jason Kreis of his fiery forward. “He takes it very, very personally. A lot of times, that results in some lashing out and some getting very angry, and showing it. He doesn’t hide his emotions too well.
“That’s not good enough for me,” continued Kreis. “We’ve talked about it with him and we’ll continue to talk to him about it. It affects our team when we don’t have Fabián available.”
With Espíndola out, even more of the scoring burden falls on fellow forward Álvaro Saborío, who leads RSL with seven goals, but has scored only once in five games since returning from a stint with his Costa Rican squad where he netted four goals in two World Cup qualifying matches.
Saborío, who is on yellow-card warning himself, has scored a couple of goals in recent matches that were called back on narrow offside calls. Something that has affected the mood of the entire team as they struggle to get back to the winning ways – RSL were unbeaten in seven straight, including five wins before the four-game winless skid began.
“Let’s be honest, we’re not getting too much help from the officials these days,” said defender Nat Borchers. “It’s seems like there’s a few calls that have gone against us for sure. I can’t think of too many 50-50s that have gone for us.”
Against Portland, Real must have no excuses. Officials, nerves, or lack of technique will not cut it. RSL must find a way to put the ball in the net.