The unbeaten streak is over, and with it, Real Salt Lake's playoff chances took a serious hit.
A back-line blunder in the 72nd minute allowed former RSL player Alecko Eskandarian to tap in the game-winning goal for Chivas USA's 1-0 win at Rice-Eccles Stadium's last time hosting the MLS club Saturday night.
"Obviously a huge, huge disappointment for us," said coach Jason Kreis of the team's first loss of the season at home. "Very disappointing, now, to drop down below Chivas (in the standings). We've dug ourselves a bit of a hole, made things very difficult now through the last five games."
The win propelled Chivas (9-10-6, 33 points) past Real (8-10-7, 31 points) and into second place in the West. RSL is now tied with Colorado for third place. With only five games remaining, and only two at home, Real's approach needs to change.
"I think the mentality has to be we have to go on the road and get a win," Kreis said. "I think we were kind of counting on three wins at home. Now, we obviously are not going to have that, so we are going to have to go on the road and pick up a win there."
Real's struggles to finish its scoring chances came back to haunt it. The run of play was controlled mostly by the home side. It outshot the Goats 17-8, had four corner kicks to two, and created a couple of golden opportunities that it simply could not put in the net.
Forward Yura Movsisyan had the greatest chances to capitalize, but as has happened more often than not in his young career, the final touch failed him. He had a shot just inside the 18-yard box in the second minute that went just wide. A breakaway in the 33rd minute that his last touch failed him and was knocked out by a defender, but his best chance was a point-blank volley in the 44th minute that he fired 100 mph straight at the keeper. Even if goalie Dan Kennedy had chosen to, he could not have moved out of the way to allow a goal.
"It was another game for me where he was very aggressive, got in behind very well, used his pace, his strength and created a number of chances for himself," said Kreis of the 21-year-old forward. "I think he is probably very disappointed, as are we, that he didn't put one of those away."
Any one of the five shots, and other chances Movsisyan had could have changed the outcome.
"I've got to feel disappointed," said Movsisyan. "I've got to take the blame for not scoring goals. In this game, you score, you win. If we score our chances, put our chances away, then we walk out of here with a win."
The team played brilliantly in stretches, but as has been the case in many of its 10 losses, it was one moment of ineptitude that cost RSL the game. A long ball was sent over the top with defender Nat Borchers chasing it back toward goalkeeper Nick Rimando. Eskandarian gave chase for Chivas, and inexplicably, Borchers and Rimando collided as the ball rolled through toward the net. Eskandarian hammered it in from about one foot away and held his finger to his lips telling the crowd of 26,391 to be silent.
"Communication was a bit of a problem," said Rimando. "I say, 'leave it,' and he got in my way. It is one of those ones where you just have to stay positive because pointing a finger is not a good thing."
"Overall, I thought the whole effort tonight, the way we played, the number of chances we created, the number of chances that we didn't allow them to create, we did everything well," added Kreis. "It is similar to last week where the game comes down to plays sometimes. Plays in front of their goal and plays in front of ours. We made a bit of a mistake there and we paid for it."
Real needs to regroup quickly as it heads out on the road for its next two games Sept. 27 at San Jose and Oct. 4 at New England before returning to open the new stadium in Sandy."Goodbye and good riddance," joked Kreis of the last game at the University of Utah stadium. "No, we are just really excited to get in the new building. October 9th will be a huge day for us, and our guys are looking forward to our first match there."