COLUMBUS, Ohio — Real Salt Lake, sluggish and susceptible, lost a third consecutive game last night.
Tony Tchani and Eddie Gaven scored for the Columbus Crew in a rather convincing 2-0 victory over RSL, which allowed both goals in the first half and failed to mount much of a threat in the second.
It was a jarring reminder of the RSL of old, the one that struggled through its infancy in Rice-Eccles Stadium.
RSL had not lost three consecutive MLS games since 2007, shortly after coach Jason Kreis took over and eventually helped transform Salt Lake into a Western Conference power.
"We've put a lot of pride in not doing things like losing three in a row," Kreis said. "It feels different. It just puts us in a place that we aren't comfortable or familiar with."
RSL found no comfort in Columbus, where unstable air brought about by high humidity and temperatures in the 90s sparked a violent storm on Friday afternoon that left more than a million Ohioans without electricity.
RSL was not spared. It spent a sweltering night in a hotel, where power was not restored until shortly before the team boarded a bus for Crew Stadium.
Once there, the struggles that plagued RSL in consecutive home losses last week continued.
Tchani scored in the 16th minute. Gaven finished off a Chris Birchall corner kick to make it 2-0 in the 44th.
The deficit turned out to be too great for a team missing standouts Kyle Beckerman (suspension), Jamison Olave (calf) and Ned Grabavoy (groin).
"Maybe we aren't as deep as we think we are," Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando said. "But at the same time, it doesn't matter. When a player comes into that position he has to do his job."
Salt Lake was on its heels in the opening half, when it put only one shot on goal, took no corner kicks and was offside four times.
The Crew (6-5-4) had little trouble closing out the game, pushing Salt Lake (10-6-2) four points behind West leader San Jose.
RSL defender Nat Borchers said a fitful Friday night and high humidity and temperatures at game time were not a factor.
"You'd like to make excuses," RSL defender Nat Borchers said. "It would be nice to be able to do that in this business but you can't. (The Crew) went through it, too."
Kreis said he was disappointed with how a power outage that hit Crew Stadium Saturday morning was handled. Power was not restored until 5:30 p.m. ET, when it was decided that the game would kick off an hour later than scheduled .
"We wake up in the morning and the first thing we hear is that the game might be canceled or the game might be postponed," Kreis said. "There was too much uncertainty.
"With situations like this, there should be a backup plan in place and we should move forward with that very quickly."
Tchani and the Crew wasted little time in taking an early lead.
Striker Emilio Renteria recovered after slipping during a run onto a long ball in the right channel and worked his way past veteran defender Chris Wingert.
Renteria turned at the end line and fired a cross to the penalty spot, where Tchani, unmarked, deposited the ball between the near post and Rimando.
The goal ended an RSL road shutout streak at 331 minutes, the second longest in the team's eight-year history. It was aided by a defensive breakdown by RSL, a disturbingly common occurrence of late.
"There is no one in this locker room that thinks we aren't capable of doing better," Rimando said.
"We just aren't getting the results right now and I think that's coming from mental errors. It's foolish for anybody to think that this team isn't going to improve in the next couple of games. We have all the talent in the world."
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