SANDY, Utah --- For the first time in perhaps more than a year, Real Salt Lake struggled to get the breaks when it counted on Saturday, and it cost them a chance at another title.
The defending champs managed 15 shots and a frantic final 20 minutes of tremendous pressure in a 1-1 draw with FC Dallas, but couldn’t find the luck or a path to get past goalkeeper Kevin Hartman to find the goal to send the series into a do-or-die overtime session and possible shootout.
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“I’m still shocked, to be honest, that the season is over,” defender Nat Borchers said. “It was one of those games where had so many chances to score, it makes it that much more heart-breaking. This is tough, because the whole second half we put it on them.”
Borchers was just one of a number of RSL players who narrowly missed pay dirt in the last gasps of the match. He looped a header off the crossbar in the 73rd minute, Robbie Findley blazed a header wide in the 88th minute and Hartman swallowed up a chance by Collen Warner in the 77th.
Fabian Espindola also rocketed a header over the bar late in the first half and Will Johnson came away empty on a right-footed blast during first-half stoppage time that potentially could have changed the dynamic of the match after the break.
The missed opportunity of the night, however, came in the 49th minute, when Espindola’s breakaway shot was kicked wide by a lunging Hartman.
“On another night, a few more of those chances go in,” Borchers said. “That’s what is so hard about where we’re at right now. We were pretty much sitting in their six-yard box just pinging shots at Hartman, and we had so many chances to score.”
Real Salt Lake finished with six shots on goal to FCD’s three and held an 11-3 edge on corner kicks, but it was no matter. FCD gutted out the draw and a 3-2 series win on aggregate goals, and they’ll face either the LA Galaxy or Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference final while RSL rue what went wrong.
“Maybe we ran out of luck or something, I don’t know,” said Findley, who scored RSL’s lone goal on a tap-in from Borchers in the 79th minute. “We had a lot of opportunities, but sometimes that’s the way the game goes.”
“We scored our goal too late,” midfielder Andy Williams said. “We had our chances and just couldn’t get it.”