Snake-bitten Real Salt Lake count on defensive discipline to help "bounces even out"

SANDY, Utah – Real Salt Lake are starting to feel more than just unlucky. Snake-bitten might be a better way to put it.

The questionable penalty-kick call against Nat Borchers in last Saturday's 1-1 draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps was just the latest in an increasingly long line of frustrating moments that have seen a team that was unbeaten in their first 12 games into one facing a string of eight games with just one win.

“Let’s start off at Seattle [a 4-0 loss on May 31]: We had a penalty call on us there that I don’t think was a penalty,” Borchers told reporters. “The Columbus game [a 1-1 tie on June 4], we get a penalty called that I don’t think is a penalty, either.

"We get a sending off with Portland at home [a 3-1 loss on June 7]. We get Luke Mulholland [sent off] against Chivas [a 1-0 loss on June 28]. We get the penalty call against us this last game. So definitely during this streak we’ve had some bad bounces for sure.”

Nobody in the Salt Lake locker room is claiming that all the calls are going against them. Nobody is claiming they have all been bad calls. The studs-up challenge by Mulholland, for example, was indefensible. But RSL coach Jeff Cassar is looking for a way to get his team back on the winning track and put the recent difficulties behind them.

“It’s staying positive and just trying to keep the locker room and the guys together,” he told reporters. “Focusing on the positive things, learning from the negatives and having that killer mentality.”

Cassar was quick to point out that, had RSL capitalized on numerous opportunities in the first half against Vancouver last Saturday, the penalty kick would not have mattered. He also wants his team to be cognizant of the fact that MLS referees are far more prone to point to the spot this season. There have been 88 penalty kicks called so far in 2014; there were 81 during the entire regular season in 2013.

“Defensively, it’s limiting those and not giving the referee an opportunity to possibly give a red card or a PK,” Cassar said. “A lot of times, it comes down defensively to discipline.”

Borchers said the flurry of penalties has him reconsidering the way he plays.

“As a defender, you have to think twice in the box especially,” he said. “Especially after what happened to me on Saturday, you have to be a little more thoughtful about making challenges in the box, for sure.”

Despite their recent frustrations, Borchers expects Real Salt Lake to find its way back into the win column.

“If you do the right things, if you continue to play the right way, I think those bounces even out,” he said.


Stay connected: Get access to breaking news, videos, and analysis from North America's best soccer reporters via "This Week in MLS" newsletter or using our FREE mobile app.