Unbeaten at home, winless on the road, and just over a quarter of the season in the rearview mirror, a trend is starting to set in for Real Salt Lake and it's not one that leads to the playoffs, either.
Ask a dozen different players why RSL has lost all four road matches this year, and you'll probably get a dozen different explanations, ranging from poor finishing and poor mentality, to tactical choices and poor officiating.
Regardless of the rational, RSL must find a way to break through on the road soon; otherwise, it will continue to tumble further and further down the MLS standings.
Tied with Chivas USA for 11th place overall, only D.C. United and San Jose own worse records than Real Salt Lake. Of those four, D.C. United and RSL are the only teams who haven't earned a single point on the road yet.
Kyle Beckerman believes it's way too early to push the panic button.
"I think we've made big strides at home, and now it's time to take steps to mature on the road. I think it will come. We need to start getting some ties and then see if we can start sneaking some wins away," he said.
Its next chance at breaking through on the road is this Saturday at FC Dallas, a place RSL is 0-5-0 all-time. Head coach Jason Kreis prefers to throw Real's troubled history in Texas out the window.
With so few current RSL players around for any of those previous five losses, Kreis believes they're insignificant. Theoretically he's correct. However, for a franchise that owned a 6-31-10 all-time road record entering the 2008 season, losing four straight away from home hasn't exactly altered perceptions.
Like his players, Kreis can't put his finger on one all-encompassing reason why RSL is 0-4 on the road.
"I would just say we've got to continue to do what we're doing," said Kreis.
He believes if the players continue to work hard in practice, success will eventually come on the road like it has at home, where RSL is unbeaten at 2-0-2.
The day it actually happens might be the day Salt Lake scores first. Eight weeks into the MLS season, the team that scores first owns a 41-2-8 record. The only two teams to lose after scoring first were San Jose at home against Columbus two weeks ago and D.C. United at Chivas USA last weekend.
Salt Lake has scored first at home in all four home games and hasn't lost. Conversely, it has allowed the first goal in all four away matches and has never won.
"Personally, I'm not worried about playing on the road. I feel like we've come out in the first half and had good performances," said defender Chris Wingert. "We need to be able to put a goal away like we've been doing at home. At home we're jumping on teams right away and scoring a goal and then the game's in our favor."
Goalkeeper Nick Rimando believes that sticking with the game plan is another obstacle RSL must overcome.
"Going into those road games, we know what we need to do; we just don't accomplish it. We don't put that effort out there," he said. "We know it's going to be hard and know they're going to come after us because they have that homefield advantage, but we just seem to fall back in that second half."It's going to take a 90-minute effort for RSL to finally break through. Seven of the 10 goals surrendered have been in the second half.
Real Salt Lake's road woes Year ... W-L-T ... Pts.
Year ... W-L-T ... Pts.
2005 ... 0-14-2 ... 2
2006 ... 4-9-3 ... 15
2007 ... 2-8-5 ... 11
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