Brian Nicholson, Deseret News
By James Edward
SANDY — Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis has stressed repeatedly that at this point in the season he's more interested in the performance than the result.
It's not surprising, then, that he was pleased with how things unfolded at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night against Chivas USA. RSL dominated possession, created the majority of the chances and was definitely the more dangerous team over the 90 minutes.
As for the result, though, that was a different story.
"We were a half a step off," said Kreis.
In a game that most figured Real Salt Lake would dominate, the visiting Goats executed a defensive-minded game plan exceptionally well in a stunning 1-0 victory over previously unbeaten RSL in front of a sellout crowd.
"I think in the end you look at it tactically and say we wanted to press the game and they wanted to defend and counter attack, and tonight the defensive-minded team won. That's not going to change the way we think about the game or the way we try and play," said Kreis.
"On a different night, we win that game by multiple goals."
RSL had chances to bag an early goal with a 63-39 percent advantage in possession in the first half, but it could never breakdown Chivas' defensive posture.
Against an opponent whose attack was virtually non-existent, RSL's Ned Grabavoy said the worst-case scenario should've been to walk away with a scoreless draw.
A miscue in the 72nd minute prevented that.
After elevating to corral a cross in the box from Nick LaBrocca, Real Salt Lake keeper Nick Rimando came down and collided with both Chris Schuler and Chivas striker Casey Townsend. The loose ball fell straight down to Townsend, who quickly buried his team's first goal of the season.
"I don't know if I hit Schuler and Townsend, but a challenge, ball comes out of my hands and right to him, and he hits it in," said Rimando. "Next time around, maybe I'll punch it. My eyes were on the ball and I'm going to get the ball and not knowing there's going to be contact. Next time around, you punch that and it gets cleared."
RSL had several chances over the final 18 minutes and five minutes of stoppage time, but the visitors hunkered down and survived the onslaught. Halftime sub Alvaro Saborio had the best chance during the late push, but his shot from distance with Chivas keeper Dan Kennedy off his line glanced harmlessly off the top of the crossbar.
The loss dropped RSL's record to 2-1 this season, and it ended a five-game unbeaten streak against Chivas USA. The victory was Chivas' first of the year after back-to-back 1-0 losses to start the year.
RSL returns to action next Saturday at the Portland Timbers, which will be hungry as well after losing Saturday at New England 1-0.
From the opening whistle Saturday, it was clear Chivas USA had no plans to press the game. It's what RSL saw last week in a 2-0 win against New York, so it certainly wasn't surprising.
With so many players committed to defend, Chivas' only quality chance of the first half came on a corner kick in the 16th minute. Rimando was forced into a diving save on a Peter Vagenas redirected shot from 12 yards out, and he came up big again, turning away the rebounded shot from former RSL player Rauwshan McKenzie.
Kreis tried to inject a bit more creativity into the attack at halftime by inserting Saborio and Javier Morales into the game in place of Paulo Jr. and rookie Sebastian Velasquez.
It nearly paid off, with a Morales free kick in the 50th minute falling directly to the feet of Schuler. Unlike Townsend, though, who buried the winner, Schuler put his close-range shot over the crossbar.
"They got the goal; in the end credit to them, they worked hard for those three points," said Kreis.
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