Carson, Calif. • It’s a dreadfully long season. The proof rests in the reality that the Major League Soccer campaign spans all four seasons, which leaves enough time on the calendar to feature the triumph and the agony. Real Salt Lake blasted out of the gates, scoring goals at will and willing themselves to finding results, both at home and away from Rio Tinto Stadium.
The ecstasy of a fantastic start was showcased in an attack that, at the time, was as potent as any in MLS. In the first 10 matches of 2014, RSL poured in 21 goals. Do the math: That’s a club averaging over two goals per outing. These days the club is two months away from its last potent offensive performance, a 5-2 win at Houston on May 11. The last six weeks haven’t been easy with missing and returning players from national team duties and injuries.
So entering a goal-scoring drought of sorts is producing an extended rough patch. The club has scored six goals in its last eight league matches, a significant drop-off from the wealth of scoring that was produced when the calendar started in winter.
“A lot of times they come in bunches,” RSL coach Jeff Cassar said after his club’s 1-0 loss at L.A. Saturday night, “but really the most thing I’m concerned about is the way we’re playing and the way we’re putting ourselves in position to score.”
It’s obvious the club is missing all-time leading scorer Alvaro Saborio, out for another couple of months with a broken foot. His ability to score and attract attention from opposing defenses opened things up for Joao Plata’s sizzling start to the season. However it can be explained, RSL, now 7-4-7, finds itself in a bit of an offensive rut. The last goal scored in the run of play came in the 23rd minute of RSL’s 3-1 loss to Portland when Luke Mulholland slotted one home on June 7. Since then, it’s been shutouts or goals scored from the penalty spot.
Players and coaches aren’t placing blame on the thin forward corps of Devon Sandoval, Olmes Garcia and Robbie Findley, who is dealing with an injury. The trio has yet to score a league goal in 17 matches this season, the last time a forward scored a goal in the run of play coming when Plata gave RSL an early 1-0 lead in the eventual 2-1 win over Colorado on May 17.
“I feel like we talk about that every year at a certain point,” defender Tony Beltran said. “We trust in our forwards, we trust in our midfielders and we know they’re capable of finishing off chances. For whatever reason they’re not going in right now, so we’ll keep working on it in the training ground and keep staying positive. It will come.”
Despite the scoring woes, RSL remains fourth in MLS in goals scored with 27, which is both a testament to their hot start and how things could be considerably worse. Wherever the answer lies, the club would be well-served to figure it out as it did early in the season. With four of the next five matches at home, a flurry of goals could help RSL rediscover what it had those first two and a half months of the season.
“We’re creating chances — it’s not like we’re not,” Cassar said. “That’s the most important thing. The goals will come if we continue to put ourselves in that position. The goals will come.”
Seattle shuts out Portland
Clint Dempsey and Marco Pappa each scored in the second half to boost the Sounders to a 2-0 win over rival Portland on Sunday.