Real Salt Lake continued its impressive run of form at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday, and a big reason why was the performance of its defense.

Even though a late goal by San Jose prevented RSL from registering its second shutout of the season, it still played well for most of the match.

"The players seem to be better connected, better spaced, we weren't so strung out from top to bottom," said RSL coach Jason Kreis. "I think that we're learning."

Prior to Saturday, only three teams in MLS had surrendered more goals than the 16 let in by RSL. Eleven of those 16 goals had been given up in the past five games, and RSL was desperate for a solid defensive performance to stop the bleeding.

There's nothing like a visit from an expansion team that's only scored six goals all year to cure the defensive blues.

"To be honest they really didn't bring a whole lot at us," said defender Nat Borchers. "We did a better job in the second half of possessing the ball, and when you keep the ball it limits the time they have the ball, and they didn't have a whole lot of chances because of that."

TYING IT UP: Javier Morales was credited with an assist on Robbie Findley's second half goal, the sixth assist of the season for the Argentine midfielder.

That ties him for the league lead with Landon Donovan of the L.A. Galaxy. Prior to his sixth assist Morales was tied with four other players with five assists, including L.A.'s David Beckham and Chicago's Cuauhtemoc Blanco.

With two-thirds of the season, Morales is well on his way toward breaking the team record of 11 assists set by Jeff Cunningham in 2006. During that same season Carey Talley and Chris Klein all finished with eight assists. Coincidentally enough, none of the three still play for Real Salt Lake.

WASTED CHANCES: Morales' missed penalty kick in the third minute against San Jose was Real Salt Lake's first penalty kick of the season. Ironically enough, it was awarded another penalty kick in the 73rd minute when Andy Williams was dragged down in the box.

RSL is now six of eight on penalty kicks since 2005, whereas its opponents are 12 of 13 on penalties since the team's inception.

Three of those opponent penalty kicks have occurred this year, all taken successfully.

HELLO STRANGER: Two years after Real Salt Lake traded him to Chicago, Ryan Johnson was back at Rice-Eccles Stadium Saturday, this time in a San Jose Earthquakes uniform. Most recently Johnson had been playing in Sweden, but against RSL Saturday he made his second straight start of the season.

It wasn't very productive as he had zero shots in 90 minutes of a 3-1 loss.

After RSL drafted Johnson with a second-round pick in 2006, he played seven games for the club before he was dealt for Jack Stewart.


E-mail: jedward@desnews.com