FRISCO, Texas At the end of the day, despite overcoming numerous challenges in the Texas heat, nothing's changed for Real Salt Lake.
In surrendering two goals in the final 10 minutes of a 2-1 loss to FC Dallas, RSL is still winless on the road in 2008, winless in Dallas in six franchise appearances, and understandably the players are extremely frustrated.
"This one hurts a lot. I think everyone put so much work into today, and it's disappointing to lose like this," said Real midfielder Dema Kovalenko.
Losing a match late is nothing new against FC Dallas, a club that's earned points in four of of its last five matches against RSL by scoring very, very late. The disappointing part for the players is the letdown negated what had been an otherwise gritty performance on a hot and humid evening in Texas.
RSL was reduced to 10 men in the 38th minute when Ian Joy was slapped with his second yellow card of the match. On the ensuing free kick, RSL dodged a bullet when Dallas' Drew Moor headed the kick inches past the post.
"I thought personally it was a bit harsh, but that's the game you have to deal with it, and I thought we made enough adjustments to be solid defensively through the half," said RSL assistant coach Robin Fraser, speaking in place of head coach Jason Kreis, who declined comment.
RSL made a few tactical adjustments in the final minutes of the first half in hopes of keeping the game scoreless. It succeeded in that task, but things got even better just before halftime. Inexcusably, Dallas veteran midfielder Bobby Rhine smacked RSL's Javier Morales in the face resulting in a straight red card to even the numbers and 10 men apiece.
At the break, Real's coaching staff reorganized by replacing striker Robbie Findley with midfielder Kenny Cutler.
"We had a forward running around in the midfield for the last six or seven minutes, so the thought was to solidify the back two lines and see what we could nip up front," said Fraser.
As expected, both teams came out reserved in the second half to prevent the match from evolving into a back-and-forth track meet. In the 68th minute, RSL got the break it was looking for. Second-half substitute Fabian Espindola and Javier Morales linked up beautifully on a quick give-and-go in midfield, the final pass springing Espindola up field as he beat an FC Dallas defender to the ball and put it away for the 1-0 lead.
After that, the onslaught was on.
On a night when interim head coach Marco Ferruzzi was making his debut, FC Dallas upped its intensity in the final 20 minutes and it eventually broke down RSL's defense.
"I think our effort was good, but the guys were tired. We defended a lot and as a result we probably just weren't able to get as much pressure on the services as we would've liked to," said Fraser. "When you're trying to defend a lead, if you can solve problems further away from your goal you're in much better shape."
It failed to do that in the 83rd minute as Drew Moor whipped a cross into the box that Dominic Oduro flipped into the back of the net just ahead of RSL keeper Nick Rimando.
There's something about Real Salt Lake that brings out the best in Oduro. He scored the game-winning goal in stoppage time in Salt Lake City last June, and he pulled it off again on Saturday. In the 91st minute he buried the winning goal after tracking down a ball near the top of the box and quickly dancing around stumbling defender Nat Borchers.
"Realistically, it's a crushing blow. We played well enough to certainly get at the very minimum a point, and really we thought it was going to be three points as the game was winding down so it's incredibly disappointing," said Fraser.RSL returns to action Tuesday with a U.S. Open Cup qualifying match at Columbus, followed by a league match at home against San Jose.