SEATTLE — The foundation of Real Salt Lake's style of play is possessing the ball and controlling the flow of the game. Logically then, when the team isn't crisp and is struggling to connect passes around the midfield, the quality of soccer just isn't going to be good enough.
That's precisely what happened during the first half of Saturday night's 2-0 loss at Seattle.
For a variety of reasons ranging from nerves to the wet turf, the players never seemed to figure out the pace of the ball in the first half. As a result, RSL gave the ball away far too easily, leading to numerous counterattacking opportunities for the Sounders — ultimately how they scored.
"I think they're a very good team on the break; I think that really we created our own problems when we turned the ball over in critical positions on the field in the first half and they broke really quickly on us," said RSL coach Jason Kreis.
That lack of cohesion led to a brutal stretch from about the 10th minute to the 20th minute in which RSL was in its defensive half for an agonizing 10 minutes. Coincidentally enough, Seattle scored its goal in the 17th minute and narrowly missed out on a few others.
The idea, according to defender Chris Wingert, was to play a very direct style in the opening 10 minutes and then settle into its more preferred possession game after that. Unfortunately for RSL, the transition didn't happen until halftime.
RSL was clearly the better team in the second half, outshooting Seattle 10-4 and racking up 10 corner kicks, but it couldn't put any of those chances away and ultimately paid for its rugged opening half.
"If you see most of our games last year, even games we didn't have great results, I think we tend to out-possess the other team, especially the games we're the better team," said Wingert. "That showed a little bit in the second half, but at the same time it's a 90-minute game so you have to put two halves together."
RSL won't have much time to fret about the loss. It has a short turnaround this week with Columbus paying a visit to Rio Tinto Stadium on Thursday night in a nationally televised game on ESPN2. There are two areas Kreis really hopes to see improvement.
"Can we relax a little bit more and complete more of those passes that we need to establish a rhythm of the game, and then can we not lose it in critical areas of the field. If we do those two things better, we're going to be fine," he said.
Overall, Kreis said he felt quite positive about the match thanks largely to his team's second-half performance. He's encouraged that with that type of effort for 90 minutes, the team will be fine.
"For long stretches of the second half I thought we were very good, and if we'd scored one of those chances we had, we could've seen a completely different game," he said.
E-mail: [email protected]