For the sixth time in 14 games, Real Salt Lake couldn't hold onto a lead and gave up points.
On Wednesday in Columbus, RSL surrendered an 88th minute goal when Crew midfielder Ethan Finlay came off the bench, badly beat Salt Lake defender Abdoulie Mansally and popped the ball up and over goalkeeper Jeff Attinella — who had an otherwise spectacular game – to salvage a 1-1 tie.
“We could've won this game, so that was positive,” said RSL Coach Jeff Attinella, whose team bounced back relatively well after losing 4-0 in Seattle on Saturday. “We'll take a look at the video. See what we can do better. See how we can close things out better.”
Closing things out continues to be a problem for Real Salt Lake (6-1-7). The team has led in six of those ties; in two, RSL led by two goals.
Adding insult to injury, the Claret-and-Cobalt have shown a definite propensity for giving up late goals that cost them. They've given up tying goals in the 95th, 90th, 90th, 94th and 89th minute, costing them a total of 10 points in the standings.
“If we can do a better job in the last five minutes of games, we'd have a much better record,” Cassar told reporters.
Attinella told reporters the team is feeling “a little bit of disappointment not to get the three [points], but we'll wake up tomorrow and probably be pretty satisfied with it.”
“When it's that late in the game and we're up 1-0, we want to do our best to get the three points. It doesn't matter if we're on the road or not. But before the game, we would've taken it,” he said.
The Real Salt Lake team that took the field on Wednesday night was not the lineup anyone is accustomed to seeing. Because of a combination of injuries, players away on World Cup duty and Cassar's decision to rest some of the regular starters because of the team's three-games-in-eight-days schedule that includes trips to Seattle and Columbus, RSL was all-but-unrecognizable.
And it wasn't just Cassar putting different players on the field. He went away from RSL's regular diamond formation to a 4-5-1.
“The first 20 minutes or so, we were still trying to figure things out,” RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy told reporters.
Cassar readily admitted his team was not “totally comfortable with” the change, because they had spent little time practicing in the formation that resulted in “some good, some bad.”
“When we possessed and connected a few passes, it was good,” Cassar said. “But if we gave the ball away early, we kind of left ourselves exposed a little bit.”
That certainly includes Finlay's late goal.
“We came in here with a goal to play really well defensively, and that's kind of what [the 4-5-1] does,” Attinella said. “ And it also gave us a chance to rest Devon [Sandoval]. Didn't have to bring [Joao] Plata back too early [from a hamstring injury]. It's a formation that — we're down numbers in forwards, but it lets Javi [Morales] attack and it gives us a good defensive shape. So for this game, for this situation, I loved it.”
RSL returns home on Saturday to face Portland.