LEHI — Unless your home is the Camp Nou, your star player is Lionel Messi and your payroll is in the hundreds of millions of dollars, it's next to impossible to be perfect on the soccer field for 90 minutes.
There was a time when Real Salt Lake was MLS's version of Barcelona, but these days it struggles to put 45 minutes of soccer together — let alone 90. In almost every postgame press conference over the past several months, coach Jason Kreis has addressed the media and talked about his team's lengthy struggles.
In Philadelphia last weekend, it was the first half, with Kreis calling his team's performance "abysmal."
Just a few days earlier in a loss at Columbus, Kreis said RSL didn't manage the game particularly well most of the night, especially in the second half, when it conceded two goals.
During losses to Seattle and Portland earlier this year, and then in a disappointing scoreless draw at home with Houston, Kreis was critical of the effort and intensity in the opening 45 minutes.
That inconsistency has been a constant for RSL lately, but why is that?
In a nutshell, Kreis believes the emotional fatigue, physical fatigue and then just a general lack of focus following the Champions League competition is to blame.
"We're still trying to get through that a little bit. I'm really encouraged by the fact that we've seen good stuff in every game, but still a little bit concerned with not being able to put it together for 90 minutes," said Kreis.
Based on the past two months, there's no evidence to suggest that RSL will suddenly find that consistency this Saturday against visiting D.C. United, but Kreis believes the team is trending in that direction.
"Every team that wins a championship in any sport is going to go through a spell where things just aren't the greatest, and I think that's where we are right now. I do see signs of us coming out of it soon," said Kreis.
The loss of Javier Morales can't be understated as well.
"That's just where we're at right now. We're not as superior to these other teams in the way we're playing, and when you're not, teams are going to get some good goes at you," said Kyle Beckerman.
Without Morales' creativity, RSL has been forced to fight and work even harder to create scoring chances, and it's very difficult to maintain that intensity for 90 minutes.
"We maybe don't create as many chances any more, and that hope and that drive isn't there for periods of time and maybe we turn off just a bit," said Grabavoy.
During its build-up to the Champions League final, Real Salt Lake was the toast of MLS because of its unique style of possession soccer. Everyone knew Morales was important to the team's success, but his injury has revealed just how vital his skill and creativity on the ball truly were.
Without Morales, RSL isn't possessing the ball as much as it used to and defender Nat Borchers said it's making a difference.
"A lot of it is really coming down to our possession game and how we can change the tempo with the ball in terms of getting the ball forward, getting the ball moving and then taking our foot off the gas a bit and being able to possess the ball for long stretches of time," he said.
With 22 games remaining in the 2011 regular season, there's plenty of time to find that consistency.
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