After two consecutive 1-0 road losses to open Real Salt Lake’s stretch of five straight matches away from Rio Tinto Stadium, nobody in Claret-and-Cobalt is happy with the results thus far.
However, RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar was able to add perspective as RSL fell to 5-3-2 through the first 10 matches of the season following a 1-0 defeat to the Houston Dynamo on Sunday in a weather-postponed match at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston.
“You have to look at the big picture. We lost two away games 1-0. It’s extremely difficult. We haven’t played our best soccer and still had an opportunity in both of those games to get a result,” Cassar said on ESPN 700’s Bill Riley Show on Tuesday. “We need to get back to what was making us successful - whether on the road or at home - and that’s playing good team defense.”
Prior to a 5-2 loss to the LA Galaxy on April 23, RSL had been solid defensively for the majority of its six-match unbeaten run to start the season, with mostly isolated individual errors leading to the six goals allowed in that stretch. A 2-1 win over the Dynamo appeared to put that record back on track, but consecutive 1-0 defeats followed, drawing the ire of Cassar.
It wasn’t just the goalkeeper or the back four, or even the back six, but a collective effort from 11 men that made for RSL’s early success. That all-out defensive effort led to scoring chances on the offensive end, but in the last two matches it has been less prevalent, leading to lackluster offensive performances.
“We have to get back to taking care of business, working hard for each other and that’s going to get our attack going,” Cassar said. “It’s not just trying to get the ball to those guys and watching what they’ll do.”
All road matches in MLS are difficult – Western Conference teams are a combined 41-8-10 through matches played on Sunday, with the top six teams combining to go 28-1-6. RSL’s six road opponents thus far have posted a collective 20-5-9 home record.
What added to the difficulty in Houston was a late delay in the match. After traveling to Houston on Friday evening, RSL prepared to play at Saturday night’s scheduled 7:30 p.m. CT kick time. While in the throes of preparation, the kick time was pushed back, then the match was postponed altogether, meaning the team put on their street clothes and returned to the hotel only to turn around again the next morning and go through the preparation routines again for a 1 p.m. MT kickoff in humid Houston.
“It was a difficult weekend. Credit to the players for dealing with that, but then when you have to wake up the next morning … it was going to be difficult. It wasn’t our best day. I thought the work rate was there for the most part, but in that situation in our very first game in the heat, you need everyone contributing and pulling their weight,” Cassar said. “It is difficult, but it’s just an excuse.”
RSL will continue its stretch of road matches on Saturday against Sporting Kansas City, against whom RSL already posted a 2-1 victory on April 2.
To hear Cassar’s full interview, click here.