When Real Salt Lake was whipped by Mexico's Santos Laguna in an international friendly a few weeks ago, the players didn't seem too concerned about the result, calling it a good eye-opening training session.
The team approached Wednesday night's match against Costa Rica's Saprissa with a similar mix of starters and reserves, and despite a slightly better effort the end result proved the same.
Saprissa scored a pair goals four minutes apart in the second half, a stretch that proved to be the difference in a 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
"Overall, it was a better game for us, we created a lot more than we did in that match, and some of the younger players I thought had a better game tonight than they did against Santos so there were good signs out there," said Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis.
Despite the loss, RSL is confident about bouncing back. Three days after its exhibition loss to Santos, Real beat Columbus 2-0 a feat it will try and duplicate when Toronto FC comes to town this Monday.
"The main thing is to get a good run like we did last time and not get anybody injured," said RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman. "When you're going with the line-up like we did you're just trying to get a good training session out of it."
Except for those four lopsided minutes, the match was fairly even.
Following a scoreless first half in which both teams had opportunities, Saprissa opened the scoring in the 58th minute as Ronald Gomez knocked in a pass from Walter Centeno.
Four minutes later, RSL's backline got burned again on a great through ball from defender Gabriel Badilla to Armando Alonso, who took a touch around charging keeper Kyle Reynish and buried in past RSL's retreating defenders.
Things got heated in the 83rd minute when Badilla and RSL's Yura Movsisyan were red-carded for getting into a shoving match. RSL managed to pull a goal back in the 10-on-10 situation and made it 2-1 on a Chris Wingert stoppage time goal, but it ran out of time for an equalizer.
With the loss Real Salt Lake's record against international opponents now stands at 4-4-2.
Seven of Saprissa's starting 11 have made appearances with the Costa Rican National Team, and four played in the 2006 World Cup. RSL countered with a starting 11 featuring six regulars and five reserves. It wasn't until the coaches started mixing things up at halftime that things got interesting.
At halftime Kreis made six changes, highlighted by Javier Morales who many thought would be playing in tonight's MLS All-Star Game in Toronto.
Another one of those halftime substitutes was Fabian Espindola. The Argentine striker has missed RSL's last eight league matches with a knee injury, but Wednesday's 45 minutes in the second half was a good sign that he's close to a return with the first team.
"I thought he had a couple of really bright movements. We were encouraged by that and we're excited to have him back in the mix," said Kreis.
Espindola had a great chance to score in the 55th minute on a cross from Movsisyan, but he ended up putting a weak shot on goal which was stopped on the line by a Saprissa defender.