Real Salt Lake took an championship season in 2009 and improved upon it in 2010 — with the exception of the final result, of course. The team made year-over-year improvements in many statistical categories as they garnered 56 points on the season, eclipsing the club’s previous high of 40 points.
What follows is a breakdown of where — and how — RSL improved over the past year.
Many coaches preach that success on the field starts with defense, and Jason Kreis is no exception. His team was a decent defensive team in 2009, but they were spectacular in 2010 and set a league record for fewest goals allowed, yielding just 20 on the season. In the process, Jamison Olave was named Defender of the Year and made the MLS Best XI alongside central defense partner Nat Borchers. Nick Rimando was a finalist for Goalkeeper of the Year.
The stellar goals-against number was a substantial improvement upon 2009, when the team had given up 35 goals. Much of this 15-goal improvement came on the road, where the team gave up 11 fewer goals than the prior season.
The defense wasn’t the only area that improved for RSL on the road in 2010. In fact, perhaps the most noticeable improvement was the overall performance away from home. The team more than doubled their road points with 19 on the season. In the process the team also improved on a minus-15 goal differential on the road in 2009 to a plus-1 differential in 2010.
The road performance highlights another key aspect to this team: consistency. This was talked about from day one in preseason and it appeared the team paid attention. From start to finish, the 2010 version of Real Salt Lake performed at a high level, both home and away, in league matches as well as the Champions League. This is evidenced by the fact that they only gave up multiple goals in five matches all season, and only one of the four losses on the season was by more than one goal.
When Real Salt Lake play at Rio Tinto Stadium, they come away with a win — or at least a draw. This home dominance reached a high-point in a late season match-up against FC Dallas. Both clubs had streaks on the line; RSL’s MLS-best home unbeaten streak, and FC Dallas had the chance of taking their overall unbeaten streak to 20 matches. Real Salt Lake were able to hold off Dallas and push their record mark to 25 consecutive unbeaten matches at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Aside from the home unbeaten streak and goals-against records, Real Salt Lake eclipsed several additional league marks in 2010. The team scored the most goals in the league for the season with 45, which combined with the record 20 goals allowed, gave RSL the all-time best mark for goal differential at plus-25. They also set a mark for the fewest goals allowed at home (7) and in the process set the all-time mark for home goal differential at plus-24. In addition, the unblemished home mark gave them the most home points for a 30-game season with 37 points earned at home.
MLS records broken by RSL in 2010
Fewest goals allowed: 20 (previous record 23, Houston 2007)
Overall goal difference: +25 (previous record +22, San Jose 2005 and D.C. United 2007)
Home goal difference: +24 (previous record +23, Real Salt Lake 2009)
Total home points (30-game season): 37 (previous record 35, Columbus 2009)
Fewest home losses: 0 (equals previous record set by San Jose in 2005)
Fewest home goals allowed: 7 (previous record 8, Colorado 2004)
A Look Ahead
RSL will look to extend their home unbeaten streak in 2011. There are few changes expected in the roster, and they will hope to repeat their strong defensive performance again next season.
On the attacking front, RSL have Álvaro Saborío back in 2011, and the team will expect him to repeat his 2010 Newcomer of the Year performance. Despite losing Robbie Findley in the Expansion Draft, the club will try to repeat as top goalscorers in the league again in 2011 with this year’s late season addition of Paulo Jr. and the offseason acquisition of Arturo Alvarez as attacking options.
[inline_node:321266]RSL club records broken in 2010
Wins: 15 (previous record 11, 2009)
Points: 56 (previous record 40, 2008)
Goal differential: +25 (previous record +8, 2009)
Goals scored: 45 (previous record 43, 2006)
Goals per game: 1.5 (previous record 1.43, 2009)
Goals against: 20 (previous record 35, 2009)
Goals against average: 0.67 (previous record 1.17, 2009)
Shutouts: 15 (previous record 10, 2009)
Home points: 37 (previous record 32, 2009)
Home wins: 11 (previous record 9, 2009)
Home goals differential: +24 (previous record +23, 2009)
Road points: 19 (previous record 15, 2006)
Road wins: 4 (equals previous record set in 2006)
Road goals differential: +1 (previous record -8, 2006)