SANDY — Two months into the MLS season, there are only two teams that wouldn’t gladly swap records with Real Salt Lake, the last unbeaten squad with a 3-0-5 record.
Just imagine how envious the rest of the league would be if RSL was 6-0-2, though.
It’s a frustrating reality after another blown lead Saturday night. Comfortably ahead 2-0 for most of the match, RSL conceded an 86th-minute goal and then a 94th-minute equalizer at the death in a stunning comeback by Vancouver.
It was the third stoppage-time equalizer conceded already this season, the previous two occurring in San Jose and Philadelphia. Those are six points the club might bemoan losing once October rolls around.
Last season, RSL missed out on winning the MLS Supporters’ Shield by four points, missed out on hosting MLS Cup by three points, and missed out on qualifying for the CONCACAF Champions League by one point. Allowing three stoppage-time winners a year ago — Montreal, Kansas City and New York — cost RSL valuable points along the way.
The club might be talking about similar points lost with the way this season is unfolding.
Right now, though, the players aren’t getting too down on themselves — after all they’ve yet to lose.
“It’s a tough lesson for us to learn at this point in the season to not be able to close the game out at home and being able to be better at positioning and our decisions overall with the ball, but we’ll learn from it,” said defender Nat Borchers.
Javier Morales reiterated that Saturday’s match was an eye-opener, but also stressed the importance of finishing things off earlier.
“We have to be more consistent. We have to know that the game is 90 minutes, not only 45 minutes,” he said. “I think the first 45 was a pretty good game. We had a couple of chances and score two goals, but the second half wasn’t good enough.”
As frustrating as Sebastian Fernandez’s 94th-minute goal was, late goals are simply part of the game. It’s inevitable when desperate teams push everyone forward.
Even though RSL coughed up three stoppage-time winners a year ago, it benefitted from similar desperation twice, scoring a late winner at New England and a late equalizer at Portland.
“Every game takes on a life of its own. There are games we won 1-0, there are games that we have a late goal, and then we play somebody else and it’s a completely different situation,” said defender Chris Wingert. “But we need to continue to learn from our mistakes and try to improve. We’ll try to do that later this week.”
Coach Jeff Cassar certainly isn’t panicking after another disappointing finish, but acknowledged that things need to get better.
“I think it starts with video, talking about it and showing the players what could’ve been done, what choice could possibly be made, “said Cassar. “Obviously, the staff has to look at themselves, and I’ve got to look at what I could’ve done better, first and foremost, to help the guys. Going over video, keep stressing it, putting them in situations in practice where they have to defend a lead.”