Yesterday, I wrote about Real Salt Lake’s problem finishing in clutch situations. You can read it here. I also teased that I saw signs that this problem could be solved in the post-match locker room. Here is what I saw…
As a rule, Real Salt Lake goes for the win in every home match.
Year after year, Salt Lake fans have watched Jason Kreis take dangerous risks at the end of tied matches in an effort to pull out that final goal. It has become so customary that it is predictable. Post-match disappointment from Kreis any time the side fails to get three points at home is also a tradition.
That’s where the script changed on Saturday night.
“When we got to about halftime, I thought to myself, ‘This could be a really good thing.’ We’ve been under so much pressure to try to play, create attacking chances, score goals and be dominant,” Kreis said. “I told them at halftime… You get one point, that’s fantastic. You get anything more, that’s cake. That’s icing on the cake.”
This was a shocking statement. Salt Lake had just really hurt its chances of winning the Supporters’ Shield with a stupid red card, poor defending and a bad showing against a poor team. I expected Jason to be at least a little frustrated, if not livid. After all, I had seen him angry after winning 3-0 before. This was a draw, at home, in a critical match, when two bone-headed plays cost his team three points… I certainly didn’t think he would be pleased.
Instead, he was nearly jovial. He acknowledged the difficulty the side faced, but he even spoke highly of Abdoulie Mansally’s character after the substitute left back made one of the single dumbest plays I’ve seen in 5 seasons covering the team.
After hearing his answers, I asked Kreis for confirmation that he was taking this result as a positive. His response acknowledged the unique nature of his attitude.
“I don’t think you guys could ever remember seeing me come in here and be in good spirits when we’ve drawn at home. Usually that’s a failure in my eyes, and there is no other way to look at it. But you go down a man [early]… I mean, what else can I say? A draw, sometimes, is good enough, and it was definitely good enough tonight. I’m really pleased with what the guys put in.”
He’s right. I’ve never seen him happy about a draw at home. But entering the RSL locker room, it was clear that the chance to avoid the pressure of scoring and simply band together had eased a lot of tension that had built up around the team. I think that explains Jason’s lack of brooding demeanor and frustration following the match. He had found a way to help ease the tension.
The team seemed to feel the same way. Here is team sage Ned Grabavoy describing the match and its consequences.
“Maybe that was good that that [red card] happened for this team. To be under adversity like that and tough conditions… maybe we need that to right the ship,” Grabavoy said. “Maybe that red card happened for a reason.”
Maybe it did. In any case it relieved a lot of tension, which historically has been a very good thing for the side.
That’s the best way imaginable to prepare for the playoffs.