RSL's recent struggles shouldn't warrant panic

Aug 13 2012 - 6:27pm

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With Real Salt Lake suffering a third-straight loss on Saturday evening, it appears a full-blown panic is starting to erupt amongst many long-time fans.

The referee had barely signaled full time at Vancouver's BC Place, and already the internet was awash with criticism.

I'm not trying to argue that Salt Lake has been playing its best soccer in recent weeks, because it clearly hasn't, but at the same time calling for dramatic changes and personnel moves hardly seems productive, or indicative of RSL's current form.

With nine matches left in the regular season, Real still sits in second place in the Western Conference, and third in Major League Soccer overall, and is in no realistic danger of missing the MLS Cup playoffs as it currently holds a 16-point advantage over FC Dallas and Chivas.

Furthermore, the team is 3-2-1 in six matches with the three teams just below it jockeying for the postseason positioning, and just over two weeks ago, RSL defeated Vancouver at Rio Tinto Stadium.

After Real lost 2-1 to Vancouver on Saturday, there was plenty of talk about it being a bad loss for RSL, and I couldn't disagree more.

Having seen most every Western Conference team play this season, I've been particularly impressed with Vancouver. The Whitecaps, in just their second year in the league, have turned from a doormat to a legitimate MLS Cup contender using a high-pressure three-man attack front built with speed.

I'd say it's a pretty easy argument to make that Vancouver is one of the top five teams in the league this season, and if it hadn't been for two distinctly unlucky bounces, Salt Lake easily could've left Canada with a 2-1 victory instead of a loss.

In the opening half, striker Alvaro Saborio smashed a header that easily cleared both Vancouver defenders in the vicinity, but caromed off the near post and was cleared out of danger. Had that strike missed the post and ended up in the back of the net, RSL would've carried a 1-0 lead and the Utah side is 11-1-0 this season when scoring first.

That was the first bit of unluckiness.

The second came on Vancouver's first goal of the match after Salt Lake had already won the ball, and midfielder Will Johnson hit a powerful clearance. Unfortunately for RSL, the ball struck Chris Wingert in the back and the rebound landed directly at the feet of Camilo, who took two dribbles and finished from the left side of the box.

"I'm really pleased with the performance the guys put in to the first half. A lot of hard work and determination and grit on our part. It's been quite a few games now since we've done that," RSL boss Jason Kreis said. "It all went for naught when we suffered the first goal, which was, from my point of view, extremely unlucky.

"We've got to keep paying attention to the details and do a little bit better in every aspect of our game."

And those lucky bounces often have a way of evening themselves out.

You can follow Justin Johnson on Twitter at: @jjohnson801 or email him at justinjohnson801@gmail.com.

 

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