CHESTER, Pa. — Speed kills.
Not exactly breaking news, but as Real Salt Lake discovered here on the banks of the Schuylkill River in suburban Philadelphia a surefire recipe for disaster.
Having trekked all the way here to face a struggling Philadelphia Union team that had recently gone 251 minutes between goals, this seemed a ripe opportunity for RSL to potentially snap its own string of futility. Not since Aug. 13, a span of 10 games, has RSL left a visiting pitch happy.
But if they thought this would be the night, it didn’t take long to realize otherwise in a 4-1 loss that could’ve been even worse. Time and again the Union attacked down the wings, sending its midfielders on long runs past helpless RSL defenders. Time and again RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando — fresh off earning his 200th MLS win last week — was forced to charge out to try to beat them to the ball.
When he decided to lay back, the Union charged in waves, forcing Rimando to make a series of point-blank stops. But he couldn’t reach them all, as Philadelphia used its speed to score first-half goals 13 minutes apart by Marcus Epps and Borek Dockal. Then after Damir Kreilach gave Real Salt Lake some life early in the second half, Philadelphia responded with goals by Ilsinho and Keegan Rosenberry within a seven-minute span to break it open enroute to its first-ever win over RSL in 11 tries.
While some might say his entire team should spend the next few days on the sports psychiatrist’s couch, 4-6-1 RSL coach Mike Petke says the answer is plain and simple. “Right now it’s who we are,” said Petke, whose homecoming of sorts — he’s from Long Island and has a summer home in Red Bank, New Jersey — didn’t go quite as planned. “We win big at home and lose big on the road.
“They’re one of the better possession teams in the league, but they’ve been a bit unlucky. Tonight they weren’t.
“I’m surprised to see that many goals go in, but what’s the difference between a 1-0 loss and 4-1 loss? It’s still a loss.”
Some of that is as much attributable to what’s going through their heads as much as their feet.
“You’ve got to have the right mentality, for sure, on the road,” said Rimando, who kept his team within striking distance with some brilliant stops among his six saves, but got little support.
“The fight needs to be there," Rimando added. "We’ve got to give ourselves a chance. Right now it feels like there’s lot for us to handle.”
If it’s any consolation they’re not alone. The 4-5-2 Union, in fact, went nearly a calendar year between road wins, finally tasting victory last week in Montreal.
“It’s tough,” said veteran midfielder Kyle Beckerman. “Because if you look around the league, not too many teams do well on the road. But we weren’t going to sit back. And we had some chances early but he (Union keeper Andre Blake) made the saves. Then when it got to 2-1, the game was really wide open. They finished their chances and we didn’t.
”That’s the way the game is on the road.”