The Real Salt Lake defense stepped up in a big way on Saturday in a 1-0 win over the Seattle Sounders. The end result? The squad earned its biggest victory of the season.
“Just with the environment, how hot they’ve been, keeping Eddie Johnson and Fredy Montero from finding the back of the net – it’s so big for us,” defender Nat Borchers (above) told KTVX, the Salt Lake ABC affiliate after the game.
Despite an early hamstring injury to left back Chris Wingert, the entire backline performed well as a unit. So well, in fact, that they kept a potent Sounders attack from registering a single shot on goal for the entire 90 minutes.
“What a huge, huge performance by Chris Schuler,” head coach Jason Kreis said of his center back, who was forced to enter the game for Wingert at the left back spot. “He had to come in pretty cold and play a position that he’s not 100 percent comfortable in. Credit to him.”
Despite Schuler's standout performance, Borchers pointed out that the squad is simply performing in a very cohesive manner at the back from top to bottom.
“We’re really gelling back there,” he added.
In particular, Borchers and his backline mates made a habit of stepping up and preventing the Seattle attack from finding the time and space that they were looking for in the gaps in front of RSL's defense.
“We had to get up and make sure we weren’t letting them play balls just over the top and dropping our line because we need to be compact,” Borchers said of the tactical approach employed defensively. “So we were just making sure our midfield was close to us. Every time the ball got cleared, we tried to get out – get 10, get 15 yards, whatever we could – and just compress that area.”
The approach worked. The squad earned their second consecutive clean sheet on the road, and they remained ahead of both San Jose and Seattle in the Western Conference table. With some ups and downs already in 2012, that’s an accomplishment to be proud of.
“It really sets the right mentality for this group,” Borchers said. “I think that we always want to defend first, and attack secondarily. To get a zero on the road is so huge in this league. It’s so hard to do. You’ve got to weather so many storms, and I thought we did a great job.”