LEHI, Utah — They say numbers don’t lie. That may be true, but sometimes it’s hard to understand what the numbers are really telling you.
In the case of Real Salt Lake, the match stats are mostly positive, and that’s reflected in the fact that the team has a 5-1-1 record in the league, which is by far the best of any team this season through seven games.
Pretty good news, despite head coach Jason Kreis admitting his team was "in a funk" following its 1-0 win over Chivas USA two weeks ago.
“It’s odd that we are looking at this a little bit bleakly,” Kreis said this week after reflecting more on the situation. “[A 5-1-1 record] is a pretty good start. I’m pretty sure if you’d ask every team in the league if they’d take that start, you’d get an unequivocal 'Yes.'"
The numbers would support that view — after all, the team leads the league in many statistical categories. For instance, they lead in points-per-game. Though their 16 points this season puts them in third place in the Western Conference, they have played five fewer games than the first-place LA Galaxy (20 points) and three fewer games than this week’s opponent, FC Dallas (17 points).
They are also the top team as far as goals allowed, with only two conceded this season, putting them in a first-place tie for goal differential (plus-7).
Interestingly, the team also has a commanding lead for most offside calls per game at 5.3 (no other team averages even 4 per game). This is a clear sign of how strikers Fabián Espíndola and Álvaro Saborío try to exploit the high line employed by most of their opponents.
Real Salt Lake are also proficient at earning corner kicks as they rank second in the league with 6.4 per game. That said, playing a second half with a two-man advantage against Chivas USA may have bolstered those statistics: the team earned nine in that game alone.
On the offensive side of the ball, things are not as glowing in other areas. The team has scored nine goals in seven matches, but have only scored once in the last three matches and that was with a two-man advantage.
However, the team has managed to maintain their hallmark attribute: possession. They have averaged approximately 59 percent possession thus far in the season. They have done so by completing an extremely high average of about 82 percent of their passes.
But what has been lacking is creating chances — and finishing. RSL rank just ninth in the league in shots per game, and they rank just 15th in the league in the percentage of shots that are on frame.
Despite this, the team has managed to get the results — and that is the most important stat after all, Kreis said.
“We need to look at the glass as half full right now, for sure,” he said.