Brad Rock: Reality for Real Salt Lake: Someone needed to score

Published: Friday, Nov. 9 2012 7:00 a.m. MST

Will Johnson of Real Salt Lake battles for the ball against Fredy Montero of the Seattle Sounders during the second leg of the western conference semifinals at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy Thursday, November 8, 2012

Brian Nicholson, Deseret News

SANDY — Plenty of shots, not enough goals.

Eventually, even in soccer, scoring matters.

So RSL has the offseason to think about this. It didn't score in its final five games. The season ended on Thursday at Rio Tinto with a 1-0 loss to Seattle. So it's true. If you tread water long enough, you'll sink.

Real coach Jason Kreis should spend the offseason reminding his team that a whole lot of zeros still end up a zero sum.

Scoreless ties can get results for quite a while, but they won't win championships. Eventually someone has to step up and say: GREETINGS, EARTHLINGS! WHAT IS THIS GAME WHERE NO ONE SCORES?

Mario Martinez's left-footed kick into the right side of the net in the 81st minute was all the Sounders needed to eliminate Real Salt Lake from the playoffs. Real went out timidly. Things were going quite well until a few weeks ago. What happened to Salt Lake's scoring?

Maybe it blew away with the wind.

While it's true Real created some chances in recent weeks, no one can go forever with the gas gauge on empty.

If this seems a simple concept, it somehow got lost on Real. For a time, low was the show. And though RSL got off more shots (14-9) than Seattle on Thursday, none of them nested. Fans quietly filed out of the stadium feeling, well, empty. After all, this is America, land of the free, home of the double-digit victory.

Soccer, though, gets a pass in the sense that scoreless ties get a result. But is it really as good as getting one goal? Or four?

Filling the net is never a bad thing.

Thus RSL and Seattle squared off in Thursday's conference semifinal Game 2 after drawing 0-0 in Game 1. Talk about a drought. RSL has now gone more than 450 minutes without anyone shouting "Goooooooal!" It didn't score after Oct. 6, covering three games with Seattle and one each against Herediano and Vancouver.

This on a year when Real set club records for points (57), wins (17) and goals (46) in the regular season.

But after all the noise, it finally needed one or two.

If Seattle was going to be the team that scored, it was presumably to be over the dead body of Real keeper Nick Rimando, who spent the previous game tumbling like a gymnast. He made five saves in Game 1, four of which were spectacular. Along the way he picked up a three-stitch gash above his eye and a broken nose. He came back on Thursday looking strangely like Rocky Balboa.

This time, though, he needed some help. He might not say it out loud, but it's true: Points are better than no points, any day.

Which brings up another thing. RSL is getting to be repetitive, and not in a good way. It has advanced just once in home MLS Cup or CONCACAF Champions League elimination-game play.

The futility continued. Javier Morales was blocked in the sixth minute. Ned Grabavoy had a sprinting try that was saved at the side of the goal. Morales had another makeable try stopped in the 62nd minute. There were others.

But Real finished the season still waiting for its luck to break.

It's not like RSL's scoring problems were a secret. Although coach Jason Kreis professed no concern about the point lull — Real had outscored its previous 13 opponents 12-3 — general manager Garth Lagerway wasn't pretending it didn't matter.

"That's sustainable, that's manageable," Lagerway said before the game.

Then he was off to the races.

"That said, we need someone tonight, in their biggest moment, to step up and take responsibility to step up and say 'I want to score a goal.' It's a team sport and the team needs a star. When it comes to scoring goals in the biggest games, someone has to step up and personally say, 'It's on me. I'm putting this one in the back of the net.' "

And so someone did.

Too bad for Real that guy played for the Sounders.

email: rock@desnews.com

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