FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Real Salt Lake wanted to get off to a hot start to generate some momentum heading into a critical three-games-in-seven-days stretch that began with Sunday night's 3-1 loss to the New England Revolution.
Given the performance and the circumstances surrounding the loss, the week probably couldn't have started much worse.
Revolution forward Kheli Dube notched his first career hat trick as the recently sturdy RSL defense (one goal allowed in its past three games) crumbled without the services of the suspended Jamison Olave and allowed its first hat trick since Sept. 8, 2007.
Kreis used Chris Wingert at right back and pushed Robbie Russell into the middle to cover for the Olave, but the back four never seemed to settle together and couldn't contain a Revolution side that rested its first-choice attacking options after winning in Seattle 1-0 on Thursday night.
"It's another case where I think our guys are reading the newspaper and reading the stat line and saying, 'Oh, we're doing a good job defensively and that's going to carry us into this playoff chase,'" RSL head coach Jason Kreis said. "They forget, by the way, that there's some effort that's involved in the 90 minutes."
That effort wasn't wholly apparent when Dube opened the scoring after nine minutes. New England didn't do much — Jay Heaps hit a long ball down the left flank for Mauricio Castro to collect and cross for Dube to poke through Nick Rimando's legs – but found it rather easy to unlock the slow-to-react RSL back line to snap RSL's 213-minute shutout streak.
"We didn't come out strong," RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman said. "We just, for whatever reason, didn't look like we were prepared to go to battle with a team on their own field. Not being ready to (match) their intensity from the start, it's going to be tough to get in the game."
The rickety start turned even worse when Javier Morales limped off with a strained right adductor after just 13 minutes. Morales will be further evaluated upon the team's return to Salt Lake City.
Despite the early goal and Morales' withdrawal, RSL probably should have been on equal terms after 15 minutes when Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis fumbled Beckerman's long ball and handed Findley an open net from a sharp angle. Findley, mirroring his finishing struggles in last Saturday's 0-0 draw against Houston, could only guide his effort onto the outside of the near post.
"My way of thinking is that (even) if we had scored the goal, we still would have lost because our effort wasn't good enough," Kreis said.
Dube's second goal – a simple 29th minute tap-in courtesy of another long ball down the left hand side and the resulting rebound from Michael Videira's sharp, low shot to the far post – confirmed Kreis' contention.
RSL improved in the second half and forced a couple of fine saves from Reis, but Dube's third score after 66 minutes put the match beyond doubt. Darrius Barnes handed RSL a late consolation goal when he deflected substitute Pablo Campos' header into his own net, but it was far too little and way too late to crawl back into the game.
There won't be much time for RSL to linger on this poor performance as they head home for a match against Chivas USA on Wednesday. Kreis suggested changes – Olave and Clint Mathis will return from suspension, though Yura Movsisyan isn't expected to be available — could be made for that key tilt in the wake of this performance.