The unbeaten streak is over.
Real Salt Lake lost to the Seattle Sounders, 4-0, on Saturday night — their first defeat of the year. The result ended a 12-game run that matched a record for consecutive matches without a loss to start a season, and if RSL have their way, they won’t feel the losing feeling too many more times.
“I don’t enjoy it,” first-year RSL head coach Jeff Cassar said after the match. “I don’t want it to happen often. But we knew it was going to happen [eventually]. It was a fantastic run that we went on, but I’m trying to make sure the team will react the same way I do – we have work to do and it’s on to the next game.”
One of the things they will most likely work on ahead of Wednesday’s home match against the Columbus Crew is the defense. Without regular starting center back Chris Schuler, the backline struggled to handle the dynamic Sounders attack. Reserve center back Aaron Maund conceded the penalty that led to Seattle’s opening goal and was partially culpable on the third strike.
“Maybe the decision making on a few plays was tough,” Cassar said. “Obviously the PK call – I don’t feel like it was a PK, neither does Aaron. Any time you leave your feet, you leave it up to the referee to make that call. The counter attack goal, maybe [he could’ve committed] an early foul or stop the play.”
The penalty, whistled in the 41st minute and converted by Gonzalo Pineda, had a major impact on the trajectory of the match. Up until that point, although Seattle had the better of the chances, the match could've gone either way.
The PK changed all that. It was called after Maund collided with Seattle’s Lamar Neagle as the two chased down a loose ball in RSL’s box. In retrospect, Maund certainly has an argument that he made a fair challenge, but referee Ricardo Salazar adjudged him to have bundled Neagle over.
“I thought Aaron did a good job of going shoulder-to-shoulder with [Neagle],” RSL goalkeeper Jeff Attinella said, “but obviously the ref thought differently and it definitely changed the game. It is what it is; you can’t leave it up to a call.”
Attinella probably should’ve done better to snuff out the play before it even got to the point that Maund and Neagle were scrapping. The ball originally floated in from the right, and Attinella failed to collect it before Neagle knocked it loose.
“I came out, called Tony [Beltran] off of it, thought I had it,” the goalkeeper said. “And then next thing I know, I didn’t. I tried to scramble and find the ball. Maybe I should have gone through [Neagle], but I thought I had the ball.”
Regardless, the penalty changed the match, and Seattle dominated the rest of the way.
“When it’s hard fought, it’s the 42nd minute, it’s a very even match at a tough place to play, then that – it is a little deflating,” Cassar said. “But I thought our guys came out hungry and were trying to get back in the game. We weren’t accepting 1-0 down. But it just wasn’t our day. Credit to Seattle for capitalizing on our mistakes.”