Real Salt Lake gave away a late lead and drew the Philadelphia Union on Saturday. Here are 10 tidbits I picked up from the match.
1. Still Unbeaten
When the Sounders defeated FC Dallas Saturday night, RSL became the last unbeaten squad remaining in MLS. That is an impressive start, especially with four road matches and only two at home. When you consider the competition Jeff Cassar’s men have done it against, and this is a great start for Salt Lake.
“[Staying unbeaten] says that we have a lot of fight, a lot of pride in our play right now,” coach Jeff Cassar said. “We are not playing our best soccer right now, but we’re still getting results.”
2. Success on the Road
Real Salt Lake’s start on the road has been the best part of the season thus far. Consider these three teams’ road records:
Team A: 4-7-4 GD+1 19 pts.
Team B: 6-7-4 GD+1 22 pts.
Team C: 4-1-12 GD+4 24 pts.
Team A is RSL in 2010. Team B is RSL in 2014. Team C is RSL in 2014 assuming this trend continues through 16 of the seventeen road matches and they drop one. The 2010 and 2013 campaigns are easily Salt Lake’s best regular season outings. And their road record thus far is on pace to beat those two… a quarter of the way through it.
The more impressive part is that Salt Lake has gotten these results against very good teams. They’ve yet to play a bad team on the road, but they will get to that. That is where additional points can come along.
3. Giving Up Late Goals
Real Salt Lake certainly should be happy about its start thus far, but the side has given away two road wins on last second scores. That’s four points!
Four additional points last season would have given the Claret and Cobalt its first ever Supporter’s Shield. Clearly this is a trend that has to change. Fortunately, there is time to tighten these things up.
“We have had this two times in the first six games where we had leads really late in the game and we cannot seem to pick up all three points,” midfielder Ned Grabavoy said. “I still feel we can clean some of these things up and it is early in the season.”
4. Anatomy of a Goal Conceded
Each week in this column I’m going to go through each goal Real Salt Lake conceded and explain what happened.
This week consisted of two goals, but they couldn’t have been more different.
On the first, Salt Lake got stretched thin. When Saborio turns the ball over in the Philadelphia box, it seems like just another possession. But then Luke Mulholland challenges for the ball. Unfortunately he misses and now three Real Salt Lake players (Saborio, Garcia, and Mulholland) are out of the play.
When Sheanon Williams dribbles forward and threads the needle between Kyle Beckerman and Chris Wingert, the guys know they are in trouble. You can see how quickly they are scrambling back, but it doesn’t matter. Philadelphia now has a 3 v 3 with only Chris Schuler, Nat Borchers, and Tony Beltran protecting Attinella.
Both Beltran and Attinella are late to commit to Andrew Wenger and Vincent Nogueira’s cross finds him wide open. The RSL defense nearly has a saving grace when Wenger takes a bad touch bringing the ball down, but the slight delay isn’t enough for them to close it down. As a result, the Union’s newest player finishes and the match is tied.
It is difficult to assign culpability to one player on this goal. Much of it comes down to a brilliant pass from Williams. Beltran is probably the player most culpable, followed by Attinella, Mulholland, Wingert, and Beckerman in that order. But I wouldn’t be too hard on any of them. When an opponent executes that well, you tip your hat and move along.
The second goal is much more straightforward.
Alvaro Saborio loses Maurice Edu and the Philadelphia DP punishes Real Salt Lake for it. There is a bit of a pick on the play, but Saborio’s set piece defense had been losing Edu all match. This one is almost exclusively on him.
5. Saborio’s Rough Day
I’m a defender of Saborio. I think most of the complaints about him are way overdone. He is a scoring machine and Real Salt Lake fans should appreciate him more than they do. But there is one very legitimate complaint that doesn’t get enough airtime – awful set piece marking.
Because of his height and athleticism, Sabo always has the responsibility to mark an opponent on set pieces. Unfortunately, he chronically loses focus on these plays and exposes the Salt Lake defense. That’s how Edu scored the equalizer against Philly, but it is also how he nearly equalized in the 14th minute of the match. It happened at least twice during this match, and that isn’t abnormal.
I think Cassar would be better off assigning Saborio a zone on set pieces rather than a mark. He has proven for years that simply can’t handle the marking.
All of that said, Saborio also had a bad game on offense. It happens to everyone, and to him less often than to most. Still, it is worth noting that his offense struggled Saturday. That was highlighted by his saved PK attempt.
6. Olmes Struggles Too
Olmes could have scored a couple of times Saturday, but he was missing the last touch or two he needed each time. Olmes has had a rough start to the season. In five appearances, he hasn’t scored. He needs to get off the snide… bad.
7. Luke Mulholland Strikes Again
Not only did he score with a well-timed run into the box on the PK, but he created another great chance in the 11th minute. It happened when he picked off a pass at midfield and put Olmes Garcia in position to score. He was everywhere and rewarded Cassar for starting him. While his challenge on the first goal conceded was ill-advised, it’s hard to blame him too much for that. Expect the Englishman to be in contention to continue starting, or at least coming off the bench.
8. Rimando Still Hurt
The Salt Lake netminder’s absence was apparent this week as he continues to nurse his knee injury. I haven’t heard anything for sure, but my guess is Salt Lake is being cautious to protect Nick’s World Cup opportunity. It is great for Attinella to be getting game time and experience as he will have to start six MLS matches this summer.
9. Seba, Beltran and Wingert Back
Given the injury woes of RSL, it was nice to see these three back on the pitch. The outside backs went the full 90’ and played ok, while Velasquez entered late as a sub earned some plaudits. Fortunately, the depth situation is slowly getting better.
10. Gil’s Absence
Velasquez’ return from injury was perfectly timed as Luis Gil is now out with a hamstring issue. That leaves Salt Lake with two healthy midfielders to play opposite Ned Grabavoy in the diamond, but I’m sure Jeff Cassar would like choices. Unfortunately, hamstring injuries usually take time, so RSL is probably down to Mulholland and Seba for the next week or two.
Category: Five Thoughts