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Chris Kamrani
Chris Kamrani covers Real Salt Lake for the Tribune.

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Three points is three points, but RSL knows it needs to play better

So RSL lost points against Chivas USA last month that it probably deserved to gain, based on its performance in a 1-0 home loss.

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Tonight, it gained some points that it certainly could have lost, based on the opposite quality of its performance.

Even coach Jason Kreis acknowledged that his team "could have and probably should have been punished" for its carelessness with the ball against the expansion Montreal Impact, especially in the opening 20 minutes or so of the eventual 1-0 victory at sold-out Rio Tinto Stadium.

In the end, then, RSL should probably be viewed as right where it should have been, 12 points from a 4-1-0 record. That's a rate that anybody would take, and puts RSL atop the MLS Western Conference heading into the weekend, when the rival Colorado Rapids arrive for its third game in seven days.

That gets a lot more interesting now with midfielders Javier Morales and Ned Grabavoy almost certainly out with injuries — Morales pulled his hamstring, while Grabavoy is believed to have broken a rib — although Kreis is hoping that a better effort from his players can make up for the loss of talent.

After all, he didn't get nearly as much of that as he wanted against the Impact, and acknowledged that three players making their first starts of the season might have contributed to the problems.

"Tactically in the first half, we didn't find the spaces to exploit," Kreis said, "that we talk about all the time when teams are going to play with five midfielders against us. I didn't think our balance in the midfield was good, which meant we didn't have options when we had the ball. We ended up trying to squeeze things into players that we already marked. Gave the ball away a lot in the opening 15-20 minutes, and probably could have and should have been punished for that."

Midfielder Will Johnson agreed.

"It's safe to say we all realize that performance is not going to be good enough in the future against better teams," he said.

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