SANDY, Utah – A scoreless draw against Supporters’ Shield-leading FC Dallas proved a mixed bag for Real Salt Lake on Saturday.
With three games remaining before the playoffs, Salt Lake have yet to show they’re playing playoff-quality soccer.
“We do have to make sure we stamp our authority on this at some point,” RSL head coach Jeff Cassar said. “We want to make sure we're going in on our note.”
Of course, draws at home can look better in context. It was just Salt Lake’s 5th shutout of the season, all five coming at Rio Tinto Stadium. It is also the second straight game RSL has held FC Dallas without a goal. While they didn’t close the gap on Dallas or Colorado and LA for second place in the Western Conference, they also didn’t lose ground to fifth-place Portland, who fell to Houston.
“We wanted the win at home, but it's a result,” RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando said. “I think we played a lot better than last week at Houston. We just have to keep moving forward.”
Rimando kept FC Dallas without a goal in the first half and wasn’t tested much in the second half. Salt Lake’s offense was much more involved and dominant on the ball in the second half, but didn't find a breakthrough goal.
“It's not a win, but I see a step in the right direction,” Rimando said. “If we continue to do this against Dallas or any team, we give ourselves a chance to win or get a result.”
The scoreless part of the draw doesn’t look as good in a different context. It’s the third straight game without a goal for RSL and with injuries affecting minutes for the influential Javier Morales, Joao Plata and Yura Movsisyan this week, creating some offensive momentum heading to the playoffs may be determined by how soon Salt Lake can get their four star attackers (including Juan Manuel "Burrito" Martinez) on the field together.
“We need everyone at 100 percent playing the exact way we want to,” Cassar said.
The good news is that may happen as soon as next week, but it wasn’t much help on Saturday.
“The final ball has to be sharper, movement has to be sharper, everything has to be sharper, but tonight we were not sharp enough,” Cassar continued.
“As you get closer to the playoffs, the games are going to get tighter and tighter and it's going to be small margins that put you over the top,” he said. “We were searching for them and we didn't get them [Saturday night vs. FC Dallas].”