Here we go again.
No doubt that's what 20,000 fans were thinking as they departed Rice-Eccles Stadium Saturday following Real Salt Lake's 1-1 draw with the Chicago Fire.
Don't count coach Jason Kreis among the disheartened following the eerie case of deja vu. Sure his team gave up a stoppage-time equalizer in a season-opening game for the second straight season, but he insists 2008 won't be a repeat of the nightmare that followed 2007's season-opening debacle. His team is much tougher mentally than that.
"I know they are. I've got no doubt what kind of reaction we're going to get this week and what kind of reaction we get next week when we go to Chivas," said Kreis.
If RSL puts forth a similar 90-minute effort to the one it did in the opener in addition to finishing things off properly in stoppage time it should be fine against Chivas USA next Saturday because it thoroughly dominated the game against Chicago.
"For me tonight, there was one soccer team on the field. I think we played all the soccer, to be completely honest with you," said Kreis. "I thought Chicago came out negatively, sat in and really just tried to make things difficult on us. I thought our guys did a fantastic job of playing the game tonight."
It was a dominant performance from the opening whistle, a game RSL probably should've won. It outshot Chicago 17-8, but failed to convert on the numerous quality scoring chances.
That opened the door for Real Salt Lake to be snake-bitten late again. Against FC Dallas in last year's opener, miscommunication between Jack Stewart and Nick Rimando enabled Carlos Ruiz to score the tying goal with 30 seconds remaining in the four minutes of stoppage time, wasting a dominant performance by RSL.
The ref added four minutes of stoppage time to Saturday's game, but it only took Cuauhtemoc Blanco about 90 seconds to level the score. Following a poor clearance by RSL's defense, the unmarked Mexican legend calmly buried a shot past the diving Rimando. In a game with 20,272 fans on hand, it sent the several thousand Latino fans in attendance into pandemonium.
"At the end, it takes a special player to make a special goal," said Kreis, who added that he believes his team should've been up two or three goals at that point.
In the sixth minute, Yura Movsisyan had a flick header sail just over the crossbar. Four minutes later, Fabian Espindola couldn't corral the ball on a breakaway and sent his shot high. Movsisyan missed with another header in the 49th minute, and then his half-bicycle kick went inches wide in the 55th minute.
"I'm definitely frustrated because the ball didn't go in the net," said Movsisyan. "I've got to do a better job of putting the ball in the back of the net because I had enough chances to do it."
Ironically enough, the only chance RSL finished wasn't even its own.
In the 71st minute, second-half substitute Dema Kovalenko hammered a hard shot in the box, but Chicago defender Bakary Soumare miscleared it right into the back of his own net.
Asked about it afterward, Kovalenko down played the moment, switching the focus to the outcome."This is not going to happen like this. This is a new team like (Jason Kreis) said, this is new players, and this is not going to happen again," he said. "This is not acceptable. We have to do better than that. We can't hang our heads and get disappointed. We've just got to work harder this week, go to Chivas and work better."