You never want a loss to be a starting point, but for Real Salt Lake, it has come to that.
Even though RSL is mired in a 411-minute scoreless drought, there were enough positives to take away from Saturday's 1-0 loss at Los Angeles, things might actually be looking up again for the expansion Major League Soccer franchise.
"I still believe we can make a difference in this league, make the playoffs and do something in the playoffs," said RSL coach John Ellinger.
In Salt Lake's previous three losses during its current four-game skid, oftentimes there were so many breakdowns during the course of the game Ellinger didn't even know where to begin in his post-game press conferences. On Saturday, he didn't have that problem.
"Overall we're very pleased with the improvement and effort," said RSL coach John Ellinger.
Making his first MLS start, Kenny Cutler was his typical solid self at holding midfield. He teamed with Jason Kreis in the middle of the pitch to match the work rate of Galaxy midfielders Paulo Nagamura and Peter Vagenas.
Defensively, Matt Behncke played his best game in a Real uniform replacing the injured Eddie Pope, while Brian Kamler also played well in his new role as left back.
Salt Lake's attack was very methodical and slow, but on the road against a team that hasn't lost a home match in seven tries, that's what you have do patiently pick your spots to attack.
Unfortunately for Salt Lake, when those spots presented themselves, it found a way to waste them like it always does.
Scoring is all about the final pass, which is exactly why Salt Lake isn't scoring.
Salt Lake is a decent passing team from the keeper to the midfield, but poor passing in that final third continues to be RSL's undoing. Not surprisingly, it is tied with Columbus as the lowest-scoring team in MLS with eight goals in 12 matches.
During the recent four-game stretch, Ellinger has used four different starting line-ups and three different formations to find a mix of players who work well together in the attack, but the end result continues to be the same.
So why is it that Salt Lake can't seem to make that final pass?
It's not like RSL isn't addressing the problem. Like every other team in MLS, Real focuses on passing and possession drills every day in practice and has been since training camp opened in February.
Nonetheless, once Ellinger's team takes the field, inevitably the bad habits take over, and the poor passing resumes.
"Every time (the final pass) doesn't go through, we all look at each other on the bench, 'there's that last pass again,' " said Ellinger. "You watch L.A., they're slipping them through. We've got to slip them through."
As simple as it sounds, Los Angeles won Saturday's game because it created far more chances than Salt Lake, which significantly improved its odds of scoring.
Near misses are a part of soccer. It's a cruel sport when a player does something brilliant, only to have a goalie make a miraculous save or have a shot hit the post.
That's exactly what happened Saturday in the 51st minute when a Dante Washington header hit the crossbar, and then his rebound attempt was cleared off the line by a defender.
That sequence was Salt Lake's only great scoring chance of the game, keeping pace with its trend of minimal scoring opportunities per game. Its opponents, however, are generating nearly a dozen good scoring chancesDespite his frustration, Ellinger is encouraged that the final pass will eventually come around. Salt Lake's next opportunity to make it happen is this Saturday at San Jose.
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