SANDY, Utah — On a night when Real Salt Lake took full control of their Western Conference Championship series against the Portland Timbers with a 4-1 second-half lead, giving up a goal in the 94th minute was “a little bit of a disappointing circumstance,” said RSL coach Jason Kreis.
But maybe not the worst thing in the world.
It will be easier to avoid complacency, perhaps, with a two-goal lead than it would have been with a three-goal gap. And one need only look back to the 2011 playoffs to see the danger in that.
Two years ago, Salt Lake took a 3-0 lead to Seattle after the first leg of their Western Conference Semifinal and barely held on for a 3-2 aggregate win.
“You could look at that and be really disappointed and feel like if we go there with a three-goal lead, it's going to be an easier affair,” Kreis said. “Or we can look at that and say, 'You know what? We've just challenged ourselves a little bit more.'”
The Timbers are 11-1-5 this season at home at JELD-WEN Field. When the series reconvenes on Nov. 24, they'll have to outscore Salt Lake by three goals to win outright and two goals to take the Western Conference finals to overtime and, possibly, a penalty-kick shootout.
“We know they're going to come out firing,” said RSL forward Robbie Findley, who scored one goal and assisted on another on Sunday night. “They're going to be pressing, so we've got to be ready for that. I think at some point in the game … we'll get opportunities there. It's a matter of putting them away again.”
And they know that for every goal they can come up with, it's one more goal Portland will have to score to try to stay alive.
“We're not going to be able to go there and sit back and just have a laugh for 90 minutes,” Kreis said. “We're going to have to go there and work.
“We've still got 90 minutes of work to do if we want to advance.”