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Real Salt Lake notebook: Team didn't fare well in the role of favorite

Published: Sunday, Nov. 7 2010 1:31 a.m. MDT

SANDY — During 2008 and 2009 MLS Cup playoff runs, Real Salt Lake played like it had nothing to lose.

And really, it didn't.

RSL qualified for the playoffs on the final day of the regular season in both 2008 and 2009, and the club sure didn't play like it was afraid to lose once it got to the postseason.

RSL coach Jason Kreis doesn't feel like that was the case this time around.

After his club drew 1-1 with Dallas on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium, losing a two-game aggregate playoff series and therefore failing to repeat as MLS Cup champs, Kreis said he believed the major difference between the previous two years and this year was that RSL expected to win this time around and played nervously as a result.

"The last two years we've been in the playoffs, we've done so much work and we've had to work so hard at the end of the season to make it into the playoffs, that for all of our self-confidence in our locker room, I still think that there was just a feeling that, 'It doesn't matter. If we lose, that's what everybody expected,'" said Kreis. "But this year it just felt different to me. It felt like to me that guys were nervous about, 'What if we lose? How's that gonna reflect on this season and all the things we've done?'"

Kreis felt like his guys played more like a team that wasn't nervous in the second half on Saturday, but ultimately it wasn't enough.

"I think we played a little tentatively and were a little scared because we were nervous," he said. "I just don't think you can ever be at your best when you're a little bit nervous and a little bit scared."

MORALES MISSING: Real Salt Lake star midfielder Javier Morales missed Saturday's big game because he picked up a red card in RSL's series-opener in Dallas.

Asked if Morales' absence affected his club afterward, however, Kreis said it wasn't the determining factor.

"I think Javier's a fantastic player, but I don't think that should take away from the other players," said Kreis.

CORNER KICKS FLY WAYWARD: Clearly, RSL missed Morales' presence on corner kicks.

Morales' dangerous corner kicks led to a host of scoring chances and goals throughout the 2010 season, but RSL's corner-kick takers on Saturday quite simply didn't deliver.

Whether it was Williams, Will Johnson or Collen Warner, RSL's delivery on its 11 corner kicks was pretty abysmal.

WALKING WOUNDED: Defender Chris Wingert missed Saturday's game because he picked up an injury on Tuesday.

Wingert took a knock to the nerve on the outside of his knee, and though he got better from Tuesday to Saturday, he called Kreis Saturday morning and said he didn't think he'd be able to go.

"He was hopeful as of yesterday that he would get much better today, but he just didn't and he was very honest with me," said Kreis.

RSL's boss also revealed afterward that he believed that Alvaro Saborio, who had an injured knee, was significantly hampered by a groin injury.

"I think at the end of the Colorado match, he strained something in his groin," said Kreis. "Obviously, he made some fantastic plays in that game to save that for us, but I think it cost us in the playoffs because he wasn't himself and I think that was everything to do with injury."

e-mail: drasmussen@desnews.com

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