Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis has referred to the first five games this season against some of the top competition in the league as a measuring stick of how strong his club could be this season.
After Saturday’s 1-0 loss to the Columbus Crew, the defending champs have to be concerned what to make of Kreis’ postgame assessment as “very, very discouraged.”
Watch: FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
Real Salt Lake had an opportunity to change the complexion early on in this match. Álvaro Saborío received a gift from an ill-advised pass-back to goalkeeper Will Hesmer, but he lost his footing on the soggy grass and couldn’t get a shot off at the temporarily open net.
The defending MLS Chp champs can also attribute their rough start to struggling with set pieces. They’ve given up three penalty kicks in just five games -- capped by Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s game-winner on Saturday -- and all but two of the seven goals allowed have come off of free kicks, throw-ins or penalties.
“I’m really disappointed that we’ve given up so many penalties,” defender Nat Borchers said.
Although Kreis refused to comment on some of the key decisions by referee’s in this one, Borchers was less tight-lipped.
“There were some very strange calls in the game,” Borchers said. “And some calls that would raise some eyebrows to most unbiased fans.”
For the second straight match, RSL had to improvise with the lineup. Chris Wingert and Ned Grabavoy were out for the second match in a row, and Javier Morales and Robbie Findley both came on in the second half, but weren’t deemed ready for 90 minutes of action. Their insertion in the second half provided a spark as RSL had been chasing the game, but it was too little, too late.
“I think it’s most important that we have faith in ourselves and then it helps to have a coaching staff that works with us and reminds that we did it all last year and we had a bad record in the beginning," goalkeeper Nick Rimando said. "Ours isn’t too bad right now – there’s worse out there – so we’re going home for the next three games and if we get nine points out of that, then good, but if not, we’ve still got a long season.”
First-year player Collen Warner received his first MLS start as Kreis looked for help in the midfield among the wounded. The University of Portland star played well in the U.S. Open Cup play-in game against San Jose earlier this month, and was rewarded in last Saturday’s match against the LA Galaxy when he came on in the 64th minute for his first appearance in league play.
Real Salt Lake will play four of their next five games at home, starting next week against Toronto FC.
“We wanted to get more points out of this road stretch,” Borchers mentioned. “But we know that we’re very good at home.”