In a sense, Real Salt Lake went back to the start on Saturday night in its 1-1 draw with Chicago.
As things turned out, that wasn’t the news it wanted to hear.
The good part was that Alvaro Saborio, the team’s top scorer, was back after missing five games with a strained quad. Even though the team had been racking up points at a nice pace, it never hurts to return your money man.
Too bad for Real that it might have been a cameo appearance.
Saborio appeared long enough to score a goal in the second half, only to reinjure himself.
“We might be back to the drawing board,” coach Jason Kreis glumly noted.
In more ways than one.
“I hope not,” said defender Nat Borchers, when asked about the possibility of Saborio returning to the disabled list. “He came in and got a nice goal for us. It’s what he does.”
So once again RSL could be begging for somebody beside Saborio to put the ball in the net.
The team found itself walking out of Rio Tinto Stadium with the certainty that this one should never have gotten away. Even in a sport where ties mean points in the standings, it was a slow way to start what could be a seven-game home stand. If Real intends to be a serious contender this autumn, this would be the perfect time to start stockpiling points.
Talk about a strange turn of events.
In the early season, goals were a worry. Kreis was hoping for someone to diversify the team’s scoring load. Saborio netted the team’s first three goals of the season. But while he was out, the team responded. In a 4-1 win last week it became apparent that scoring was happening naturally, on schedule, like sunrises and celebrity meltdowns.
Everyone was getting into the act. The team scored 10 goals in four games, all with Saborio on the sidelines. In its first nine MLS games Real scored only seven goals.
Who knew soccer could set lights blinking and ringers ringing like pinball?
After its third win in four outings — including the 4-1 rout — RSL seemed unbeatable. It was a temptation to feel sorry for the opponents. Four goals. That’s like pouring milk on the class nerd and then giving him a wedgie.
Ned Grabavoy had two goals on the year, while eight others had one.
Quick, everybody in the pool!
Kreis declared the scoring effort “exactly” what he wanted.
If scoring seems an obvious point, remember this: RSL expired last year due to severe scoring woes. On a year in which it set club records for points (57) and goals (46) in the regular season, Real went the final 450 minutes without rustling the net.
Only last week did Real creep back into the positive side on the all-time goal differential list. It has now scored three more goals all-time than it has allowed.
And what better time to improve than when you’re all unpacked and familiar?
In fairness, Real put serious pressure on Chicago’s defense on Saturday, outshooting the Fire 20-12. It controlled the ball 68 percent of the time and had seven more shots on target
But it struggled in managing Chicago’s long throws and corner kicks. Saborio’s goal put Salt Lake up 1-0 in the 78th minute, but six minutes later Chicago’s Quincy Amarikawa evened things up.
“We really wanted to clear things up defensively and I thought we did that,” Borchers said. “I thought we came out with a lot of energy, so for us not to get three points (in the standings) was disappointing. I can’t say anything more than that, really.”
Nor should he.
Tying at home was disappointing. The end of the scoring diversity was too. But the big realization for RSL was that it might truly be going back to the drawing board. Which isn’t necessarily a good place to be.
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