LEHI — Lineup continuity has been non-existent for Real Salt Lake this year.
Injuries and national team call-ups have been the primary reasons why, but red cards have been a big spoiler as well. Collen Warner's red card at Vancouver last week was the seventh red card of the season for RSL — just one behind league leaders New England and Kansas City.
For a team that suffered just one red card last year, it's a significant difference. RSL coach Jason Kreis doesn't believe the difference is that his players suddenly forgot how to play disciplined.
"It's particularly difficult because you want to feel like the red cards are deserved so you can go to your players and say that's lack of discipline. And really the only one I completely agreed with was the (Kyle) Beckerman decision," said Kreis.
Warner's red card last week was a perfect example. In a scramble for a loose ball in the box, Warner randomly ended up being in the perfect spot to miraculously block a Vancouver shot with his left shoulder, with the ball going out for what should've been a corner kick. Instead though, the referee determined that Warner intentionally blocked the ball with his hand and showed him a red card.
RSL was forced to play the entire second half down a man and never recovered, ultimately losing 3-0.
"No chance it was a handball, and there's no chance it can be a red card if it's not an intentional hand ball," said Kreis.
The ejection was Warner's first of the season, as he joined Nat Borchers, Kyle Beckerman, Will Johnson, Jamison Olave and Tony Beltran as other RSL players who've been sent off. Borchers has been ejected twice.
"Very disappointing, not sure quite why it is. I think I'll chalk it up to bad luck, and I'll hope that over the next couple matches and into the playoffs we get some good luck with the decisions," said Kreis.
While RSL has reason to feel snake bit with seven red cards this year, RSL's opponents have had plenty of decisions go against them as well with eight red cards.
BECKERMAN GOES 90: RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman started and played 90 minutes for the U.S. National Team in a 1-0 loss to Ecuador on Tuesday night.
It will be his last competitive match until the MLS playoffs while he serves his three-game ban for head-butting Chicago's Daniel Paladini back on Sept. 29. By the time he returns to the field for RSL's likely playoff opener on Oct. 29, Beckerman will have missed the final month of the regular season and won't have played a single minute with Javier Morales since his return.
"It's very difficult, there's no doubt about it. It seems like every week we're faced with a completely new challenge. It is what it is and we'll continue to battle through it," said RSL coach Jason Kreis.
Even though the absence of RSL's captain is a downer, Kreis is hopeful his return provides a big emotional boost in the playoffs.
JOHNSON ON THE MEND: Midfielder Will Johnson is "very questionable" according to Kreis for this Friday's game at Colorado because of the ankle sprain he suffered with the Canadian National Team last week.3 comments on this story
Kreis believes Johnson's availability for next Saturday's regular season finale at home against Portland is also in question.
Without Beckerman and likely Johnson, defender Chris Wingert said it's time for others to step up.
"All year long we've had these situations where guys have been called upon and had to step up and they've done a good job of that. Whatever lineup we put out there we know we're still capable of winning," said Wingert.