Sandy • In its quest for a Supporters’ Shield — a race that stretches across the seven-month regular season — Real Salt Lake may look back in dismay at three minutes in September.
That’s when San Jose’s Steven Lenhart, already a villain in the eyes of RSL fans for his rough play, headed in a pair of first-half goals as part of a whiplash-inducing offensive barrage that left Salt Lake dealing with its second straight defeat and questioning its chances.
O Steven Lenhart’s goals in the 18th and 21st minutes are the fastest pair of goals RSL has conceded since last year, when Salt Lake gave up scores in back-to-back minutes against the Earthquakes.
» The crowd of 20,504 is the fourth-largest in Rio Tinto Stadium history.
» RSL midfielder Javier Morales scores his eighth goal of the season in the loss. In 13 regular-season games against the Earthquakes, Morales has scored seven goals and notched six assists.
"We have to figure out some things," midfielder Javier Morales said after the 2-1 loss. "Always set pieces, always crosses into the box. Teams like that, they came here just to do that. … We have to be better. If we don’t figure out that, it’s going to be tough at the end of the season."
Looking to erase the memories of last weekend’s loss in Seattle, RSL controlled the game early. But in the 18th minute, Lenhart got inside position on defender Nat Borchers and headed the ball past a diving Nick Rimando to stun the sellout crowd of 20,504.
A minute later, Salt Lake captain Kyle Beckerman’s free kick found Morales alone on the back post and the Argentine leveled the score with his eighth goal of the year.
Fans were still celebrating in the 21st minute, as San Jose set up for its own free kick on the left side. The Earthquakes dropped the ball and took the kick quickly — something RSL had watched on tape multiple times over the course of this week, but something for which the team still looked unprepared. Once again, it was Lenhart getting inside Borchers and heading the ball into the back of the net.
"I hold my hand up for both of those goals," Borchers said afterward.
The team’s struggles with set pieces has been an issue all season.
"We’ve talked about it and we’ve talked about it and we’ve talked about it, and maybe at some point, they’ll start to figure it out," RSL coach Jason Kreis said. "Because as we see, it’s one of the few ways that opponents are causing us troubles."
The loss keeps RSL stuck at 48 points on the year and losing ground in the Supporters’ Shield chase.
But for midfielder Ned Grabavoy, talk of the league’s regular season trophy means little at this point.
"Every guy that came onto the field … we just didn’t do anything well," he said. "Defensively, offensively, energy to start the game — all these things weren’t good. It’s kind of everything so we’ve got to play through it."
The loss left Kreis talking about the need for his team to regain its "swagger." Borchers, meanwhile, said the team has to be concerned about its psyche heading into next week’s match in Vancouver.
"We’re going to have to get together next week and get our minds right," he said. "We’ve all got to hold ourselves accountable for how we’ve played. We’ve got great quality on this team … but we’ve got to turn this thing around."
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