Sometimes a tie feels like a loss — and that's exactly the way Real Salt Lake's 3-3 tie against the San Jose Earthquakes felt to the visiting team on Saturday night.
Never mind that a point on the road is generally a good thing in MLS. Never mind that RSL responded after the Earthquakes took a 1-0 lead in the sixth minute.
The Claret-and-Cobalt answered with three first-half goals to take a commanding 3-1 lead into halftime, but gave up three goals, two directly off set pieces and one indirectly — including one in the 95th minute — to leave Buck Shaw Stadium with one point instead of three.
How close was RSL to a win?
“[We] just needed to do a little bit of a better job for another 10 seconds,” defender Chris Wingert told reporters.
“It's just frustrating,” RSL coach Jeff Cassar said in a postgame television interview. ““It's extremely difficult. And they're relentless.”
And the fact that all three Quakes goals originated from set pieces?
“It's something that we need to work on a little bit and to shore up,” Cassar explained.
Adding to RSL's frustration is the fact that, as Cassar said, “We knew what [San Jose] was going to do.” Before the match, Salt Lake players spoke about keeping an eye on Quakes forward Chris Wondolowski, but he continually slipped in behind the defense, particularly in the first half, and scored San Jose's first goal.
And RSL was well aware that San Jose has a tendency to score in stoppage time. The Quakes scored a 95th-minute goal for the second time in five days (the other coming in a 1-1 CONCACAF Champions League match on Tuesday against Toluca FC).
Victor Bernardez, who had just three career MLS regular season goals before Saturday, scored two second-half goals to give the Earthquakes the tie — the first on a header off a corner kick; the second off a rebound on a scramble shortly after a corner kick.
“I mean, it's kind of hilarious how we give up these goals at the end of games and how good San Jose is towards the end of these games on set pieces,” RSL defender Nat Borchers said in a TV interview, looking anything but amused by what happened.
Saturday marked just the fifth time in RSL's history that the team scored three goals in a half, and the first time they didn't win.
The toughest losses for Real Salt Lake on Saturday may not have come on the scoreboard, however. Just two games into the 2014 season, the injuries are already mounting up. Playmaking midfielder Javier Morales didn't make the trip to San Jose, joining forwards Robbie Findley and Devon Sandoval, midfielder Sebastian Velasquez and defender Chris Schuler on the injured list.
And on Saturday night, goalkeeper Nick Rimando injured his back making a spectacular save (although he stayed in the game); defender Aaron Maund went out after injuring his hamstring around the 70th minute; and Jordan Allen suffered an ankle injury that hobbled him for the final 14 minutes of the game, leaving RSL out of substitutions and playing with what amounted to a man down.
On the bright side, RSL are 1-0-1 after opening the season on the road at Los Angeles and at San Jose.
“It feels like a loss, but it's a tie on the road,” Cassar said. “I'm extremely pleased with four points out of two games on the road.”
RSL face the Galaxy for the second time in two weeks next Saturday in their home opener.