LEHI, Utah — Real Salt Lake spent most of last week in unfamiliar territory: a scoring drought.
In 2010, RSL led the league with 45 goals over the 30-game season. However, last week they failed to get a single goal in their two matches. Both games ended in identical 1-0 score lines, with RSL coming up on the short end in both cases.
That’s unusual territory for a team that was shutout only seven times during 2010. None of those zeroes came in back-to-back fashion, and only one of them came at home.
“It wasn’t falling for us in these last two games,” team captain Kyle Beckerman said at training this week. “I thought we were creating chances. I guess you go through that sometimes. It’s been a long time since we had, so we kind of forgot that it’s hard to score goals.”
When the team struck out at getting an equalizer at Rio Tinto Stadium in the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final last week, it was certainly a stunner.
And when they failed again to strike on the road this past weekend against the expansion Portland Timbers — a team that had given up 13 goals in six previous matches — it signaled that perhaps the normally high-octane Claret-and-Cobalt weren’t firing on all cylinders.
However, the team has shown a response to this lack of scoring in their training regimen this week.
“Mainly this week we’ve been working on a lot of offensive stuff just to get a little bit sharper,” Beckerman said. “We’re just lacking a little bit of sharpness in front of goal. If we can sharpen that up then we should be OK and score some goals.”
The team spent much of Wednesday's practice focused on possession, making runs into space and finishing in front of goal. Unfortunately, head coach Jason Kreis may be lacking the tools he needs to get his attack fully clicking.
Promising young striker Paulo Jr.’s return to action has been slowed as he has experienced some setbacks in recovering from the hamstring injury suffered in a reserve match a couple of weeks ago. Fabián Espíndola, meanwhile, did not make the trip to Portland last Saturday as he was reportedly distraught over missed opportunities in the CCL loss earlier in the week.
Those two situations forced Kreis to start Álvaro Saborío because of a lack of alternatives. Kreis had hoped to rest Saborío, who is still dealing with some problems related to his offseason knee surgery.
“The plan was that he was supposed to rest last week,” Kreis said. “He’s got swelling in his knee. He’s doing the best that he can to try to manage. I know from being there that when you have anything like that on your mind it can affect your performance - especially for a striker.”