Sandy • As referee Mark Geiger blew his whistle near the center of the field Wednesday night signaling yet another missed opportunity for three points at home, Jeff Cassar slapped his hands together in agitation.
Real Salt Lake’s coach knew his team was again close, but again close wasn’t enough to secure a win at home as the New York Red Bulls jetted home with a road point, leaving RSL with its fifth home draw in 11 matches at Rio Tinto Stadium so far in 2014.
The club finds itself in an interesting position, as it typically does when the summer months begin to wind down. Despite the struggles of the last two months, RSL remains in second place in the undulated Western Conference. Through 21 matches, the club has 33 points with a 8-4-9 record.
Conversely in 2013, the club was 11-6-4 through its first 21 league matches.
Still in striking distance for the top spot in the conference, but searching for wins as June and July didn’t reach the premium RSL had hoped. It has gone 2-3-3 as it enters August, not exactly soaring, but still firmly in the hunt despite star forward Alvaro Saborio entering the third month of what is expected to be a four- to five-month absence due to a broken foot. The fact remains the club needs to walk off the field in Sandy with three points more often than it has if it wants to keep pace with Seattle (five points ahead at 38 with two matches in hand).
"I felt like our foot was on the gas pedal tonight," Cassar said after the 1-1 draw Wednesday. "We were trying, we were putting ourselves in some good positions, but it just wasn’t coming off. … I think that if we continue to play like that, we’ll get more wins than ties and losses."
A recently closed-out three-game home stand against Vancouver, Montreal and New York resulted in five points. After the draw with the Red Bulls, defender Chris Wingert said that amount isn’t up to par.
"You definitely want to get at least six or seven in a three-game span," he said, "if not the full nine."
"I’m a little more pleased with the performance, not the result," Cassar added. "We’ve got a quick turnaround, looking at Colorado [Saturday], and we feel we play relatively exactly the same way we do at home or away. We need to pick up some points."
As it typically does, the schedule stiffens for RSL as more matches slated for the dog days of summer continue. RSL will play six matches in August, five league outings and an international friendly against Mexico’s Club Tijuana on Aug. 12. Only thirteen regular-season matches remain, six of which come at home against contenders D.C. United, Seattle, FC Dallas and Colorado as well as struggling San Jose and Chivas USA.
August and September will be about jockeying for playoff positioning as seven Western Conference clubs remain within six points of one another in seeds 2 through 7.
"I think we have to do it better in the next game if we want to improved our position, because the way that we played," midfielder Javier Morales said. "I think we have to improve a little bit."
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