Despite formation shift to stress defense, Jason Kreis says Real Salt Lake still not good enough

CARSON, Calif. — Jason Kreis got one of what he called three acceptable outcomes on Sunday night.

Granted, it was the least acceptable of the three — a one-goal loss as opposed to a win or a tie. But still … acceptable, the Real Salt Lake head coach insisted.

“Did you think I was going to change my mind?” Kreis asked reporters after his team's 1-0 loss to the LA Galaxy in the first leg of their Western Conference Semifinals.

Leading up to Sunday's match, his emphasis had been squarely on defending. He pulled out a 4-5-1 formation, including a double-pivot defensive midfield pairing of Kyle Beckerman and Yordany Álvarez to try to limit the Galaxy's scoring opportunities — looking to flood the midfield and defend against the deep ball.

Which, with the exception of Sean Franklin's 35-yard rocket as the second half was just getting under way, worked. Sort of. RSL defended very well at times.

WATCH: LAvRSL postgame show

At other times, it was all about the old adage: Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. The Galaxy repeatedly missed chances; Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane both failed to finish time and time again extending RSL something of a lifeline when the series resumes on Thursday in Utah.

“We can't afford to give away that many chances,” Kreis said. “On a different night, Keane and Donovan are going to kill you with those. We've got to pay attention to the chances that were created against us that didn't score.”

Although the Galaxy scored just once, RSL often found themselves back on their heels fending off dangerous chances. But Kreis said that wasn't the result of the formation.

“We need to play better,” he said. “You could see it. The passes were there and the options were there. We were just missing simple passes.”

And the 4-5-1 may have “played a part in why we weren't good enough with the ball. Perhaps that's because we had some guys in different spots. And the typical gaps that are there for us aren't there for us.

“We had numbers behind the ball, but a little bit of a lack of commitment to get any real pressure to it,” Kreis said. “I don't think that we made them defend enough. We weren't good enough with the ball. We gave the ball away so cheaply so many times in very dangerous spots.”

Including the game's only score.

“Even the goal comes from our giving the ball away,” Kreis said. “It's frustrating.”