I don’t just necessarily look at the last game, obviously that’s freshest in our mind, but I think it’s been happening to us in a lot of games this season, not just games we’ve given up goals late. —Ned Grabavoy
SANDY — Ned Grabavoy was the most visibly frustrated Real Salt Lake player following last Saturday’s draw against Vancouver.
It wasn’t just because RSL had conceded a stoppage-time equalizer for the third time this season either. It was that the team doesn’t appear to be learning its lesson.
The week before against visiting Portland, Real Salt Lake did a poor job finishing off the game and was fortunate not to concede another late equalizer as RSL 'keeper Nick Rimando came up with some scintillating saves.
“I think it’s a little bit of a recurring theme,” said Grabavoy. “I don’t just necessarily look at the last game, obviously that’s freshest in our mind, but I think it’s been happening to us in a lot of games this season, not just games we’ve given up goals late.”
For a team loaded with veterans, the repeated late-game mismanagement is a bit of a head scratcher.
“When you have the players that are out there, players need to be mature enough to make decisions and make the right decisions,” said Grabavoy. “So as the game wears on a little bit and a team is pushing and pushing and pushing, can we be (more) defensively organized? That might not mean as much individual running, but maybe we’re in our shape better and more compact so a team can’t break us down.”
In hindsight, different substitutions or a formation switch might’ve helped RSL kill off last weekend's game more efficiently, but at the end of the day — as coach Jeff Cassar pointed out — Vancouver only had two shots on goal over 90 minutes.
“We basically gifted those goals. I think these things are correctable. We’re not perfect, I’m not perfect, the players aren’t perfect, we make mistakes. It’s how you rebound,” said Cassar.
Real Salt Lake has a chance for a quick rebound this Saturday when it travels to winless Chicago (0-1-6).
Cassar believes all of the team’s mistakes have come down to poor choices. When to make a one-touch pass versus making a two-touch pass. When to take risks with possession and when not to take risks with possession. Coughing up possession 40 yards from goal instead of 80 yards from goal is asking for trouble.
Cassar is trying to simulate similar late-game situations in training this week to help his players work through the issues.
“The staff and I are putting the guys in certain situations. Especially when you go on the road, it’s not always easy the way you draw it up. So we’ve put ourselves in keeping the lead, but also if we have to push to get a goal,” said Cassar.
With six months left in the season, there’s absolutely zero panic within the locker room. The team is gaining points every game, and Cassar believes there’s plenty to be positive about.
“I’d sure much rather be winning in games and working on closing them out than going, 'Oh man, I wish every game we didn’t have to come back from 2-0,’” said Cassar. “It’s kind of interesting. It’s whatever picture you want to paint it, and I’m painting it we’re doing a lot of good thing — and we’re doing some costly things to cost us points.”