To think that Real Salt Lake was once an unbeaten side looking to make Major League Soccer history is something that fans undoubtedly will never forget. To think that RSL hasn’t won a game since mid-May--well, that’s another story, entirely.
Yet that appears to be the chapter of the book Real Salt Lake is currently writing, as the claret and cobalt lost 1-0 at Chivas USA Saturday, June 29 at the StubHub Center in Los Angeles. RSL couldn’t have asked for a worse start in the 9th minute of play, losing midfielder Luke Mulholland to a red card.
Down to just 10 men though the match was barely underway, Real Salt Lake still pushed forward with numbers, looking for the first goal. It was a bold move considering Chivas USA--like the NASL Atlanta Silverbacks, RSL’s last opponent--had nothing to lose going into Saturday’s match.
The Goats may have had their franchise purchased by Major League Soccer, and attendance may be at an all-time low with the piles of empty seats spilling onto field level--but Chivas USA still played like their jobs mattered and in the end did just enough to win.
“We put ourselves in that position, being down a man. I told them that we’ve lost three games this year, two of them we’ve given up red cards. It’s hard enough to win with 11, but with 10, especially early on, it’s very hard,“ RSL head coach Jeff Cassar said at the post-game press conference. “So we’re going to learn from it, but the effort and the commitment from the guys and the fight was off the charts I think.”
There wasn’t any question that Real Salt Lake battled throughout, getting several quality chances in the first half--and had nine shots on goal for the game. RSL forward Joao Plata even looked like he’d get onto the score sheet with a goal--but his bending shot that sailed into Chivas USA's net was called back for offside in the 27th minute.
Eight minutes later, Chivas USA forward Erick “Cubo” Torres showed why he should be considered for the upcoming MLS All-Star team with a world-class volley from a cross--netting his 10th goal of the season.
It turned out that it would be all Chivas USA needed to secure the victory, as Real Salt Lake continued its losing streak--now standing at three games including MLS play and U.S. Open Cup.
RSL played well enough in the back, limiting Chivas USA's quality chances to a sitter that RSL defender Chris Schuler saved from going in with a sliding clearance, and a few heady saves from goalkeeper Jeff Attinella.
Cassar even used his subs to full effect in the second half, inserting midfielder Sebastian Velasquez for an offensive spark--which it got from the Colombian who played his first game since coming back from his DUI arrest.
That Velasquez held the ball too long at times was a result of him trying to do too much to open up the game and pry open a Chivas USA squad that bunkered and dropped as many as nine players behind the ball to prevent a second-half equalizer.
The tying goal never came on a sunny night in LA, but Real Salt Lake won't have long to think about it during a holiday week. It’s a short week of rest for RSL, as the New England Revolution will come to town later this week for an inter-conference clash of top teams.