SANDY, Utah – Although it's not exactly a secret, it seems as if Chivas USA figured out Real Salt Lake's number at Rio Tinto Stadium: Frustrate the hosts early, then scrape and claw until you get a goal of your own.
“What they’re not used to is being frustrated at home,” head coach Jason Kreis said of his squad, who had early chances but failed to capitalize in an a surprising 1-0 loss to the Goats this past Saturday. “And so I think when you went one [goal] down, you got a lot of guys feeling some real anxiety because we don’t lose here.”
For RSL, that’s where the frustration began. For Chivas, they likely couldn’t have been more pleased.
“I think in the end, you look at it a little bit tactically and say that we wanted to press the game, and they wanted to defend and counterattack, and tonight the defensive-minded team won,” analyzed Kreis.
However, it wasn’t just a case of a team sitting back in a defensive shell. Like the prior week against the New York Red Bulls, Salt Lake once again saw a team that loaded the midfield with five players and tried to stay active in the middle of the park, disrupting the RSL possession game.
“Sometimes, I think we have to expect that now with teams coming in here knowing how great we are with the ball in the midfield,” said goalkeeper Nick Rimando. “They pack it in. They play one up top, and knowing that they’re going to get their chance on a counterattack or a set piece. I think we’re starting to learn that when teams do that we do have to be patient. I thought it wasn’t too bad today.”
While Rimando felt that the patience was there, he admitted that the goal was a little bit unsettling to the squad.
“I think we were patient, but sometimes I think we do get rattled,” he said. “We want to get that goal. We’re used to playing in the midfield and playing it wide and going to goal.”
While the Chivas USA approach is a common one at Rio Tinto Stadium, and in this case a winning one, Kreis stopped short of admitting that it’s the recipe for sustained success against his club. In fact, he reaffirmed the idea of sticking to the approach that’s earned his squad an impressive 21-3-8 record at home over the last two seasons.
“That’s not going to change the way we think about the game,” Kreis explained. “Or the way we try to play.”