The last time Real Salt Lake crumbled against the Los Angeles Galaxy at Rio Tinto Stadium, the home team at least could blame Landon Donovan and David Beckham.
No such celebrity sightings, excuses or explanations were available Saturday night, when RSL was overwhelmed in the early stages of the game and never recovered in a 2-0 defeat.
Donovan stayed home with an injury Robbie Keane and three other starters also were missing and Beckham is gone from Major League Soccer. The absence of star power hardly affected the Galaxy. Not so for RSL, missing top scorer Alvaro Saborio.
The result was a dismal performance that continued Real's trend of dependable inconsistency this season.
With nearly six months remaining in the interminable MLS regular season, there's danger in overreacting to any loss. Yet the schedule serves up checkpoint games, and this was one of them for Real.
That makes the latest update anything but encouraging for RSL (3-4-2). Nobody was sure what to expect from this remade team in 2013, but there's enough veteran leadership to make something like Saturday's start unacceptable, that's for certain.
Kreis blamed his players for "thinking they'd arrived" after a solid 1-0 victory over Chivas USA last weekend, only to come out in "an absolute lull" that proved disastrous.
The unusual lineups somehow seemed to bother RSL both ways. The apparent letdown associated with not facing the Galaxy's best 11 was mixed with the hurt of having Saborio and Robbie Findley warm up before determining they couldn't play.
Kreis actually thought about tricking his players, before posting the Galaxy's starters in the locker room. Maybe he should have done so. "We said something about it to make sure we didn't let it get to us," said RSL captain Kyle Beckerman, "but maybe it did."
Even without Donovan and Keane, the Galaxy arrived with the cachet of the MLS Cup two-time defending champions. They fulfilled that role nicely Saturday, stunning RSL with those two early goals and withstanding the home team's missed opportunities including a stoppage-time sequence when two RSL shots caromed off the goal post and crossbar.
So this makes five straight Galaxy goals at Rio Tinto since midway through the first half of a game last June. In that episode, Donovan scored twice as the visitors rescued a 3-2 victory.
This game was just as disheartening to RSL in its own way. As of last summer, Real was looking like the class of MLS, making that defeat tough to take at the time.
Things are different now, which is not say that the Galaxy's latest visit was any less meaningful to RSL. This team is such an unknown that some validation Saturday would have been helpful. But that opportunity was gone within the first 13 minutes.
Giving up those two goals was even more troubling to RSL than losing that 2-0 lead 10 months ago. Mike Magee's header of Juninho's free kick and Charlie Rugg's tap-in of Hector Jimenez's pass the easiest goal you'll ever see at this level of soccer took all the fun out of this game.
Playing without Saborio, who sustained a freak injury at the end of Friday's practice, Real was incapable of answering the Galaxy's flurry.
The history lesson that comes from last season's visit by the Galaxy should be sobering to RSL supporters. After blowing that two-goal lead, Real went 6-8-2 from mid-June until early October.
This season, the Galaxy will make a return appearance June 8. Check back then to determine if RSL made any progress from Saturday's unsettling checkpoint.