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Real Salt Lake: With goals hard to come by, pressure is on RSL’s defense to produce

First Published      Last Updated Jul 02 2017 07:18 pm


RSL » Club improving defensively, but scoring tally is lagging behind.

So much of soccer is contagious, and in the midst of a down season, Real Salt Lake keeps catching the wrong bug.

"If we got one tonight, we would get a couple more," captain Kyle Beckerman said after Friday's 1-0 loss to Orlando City. "Just as the time goes on, it gets tight, and they play a little harder defense knowing that they're up with the time getting shorter. It'd be nice to get that early one, and then see if the floodgates would open."

As RSL — a team that sunk to last place in the standings Saturday when Colorado beat Houston 3-1 — continues to struggle to put the ball in the back of the net, the pressure falls on its defense to keep it in games.

To RSL's credit, even in its back-to-back losses last week to San Jose and Orlando, it limited big-time scorers Chris Wondolowski and Kaká to one and zero shots, respectively.

Salt Lake also shut out Minnesota in a 1-0 home field win on June 17 to kick off a three-match stretch of marked defensive improvement.

Improvement, that is, from the two games prior when RSL conceded a combined 11 goals in losses to Houston and FC Dallas.

"I think it's a mentality issue," defender Tony Beltran said. "I think it's we've really shifted the focus. It comes from [coach Mike Petke] and it feeds to the group, just on, we can't be soft.

"We can't give up soft goals, especially early in the game, and I think the focus for the entire 11 defending has attributed to a little more positive (performance) on that side of the ball. But again, it doesn't really matter when you're not getting the results."

In Friday's match, ball-watching in the box led to the game-deciding goal when Orlando midfielder Will Johnson scored an uncontested rebound off a header that hit the crossbar.

That night, even with six players on the injury report, RSL was encouraged by three weeks with a squad that was relatively closer to full strength.

Salt Lake's back line was, and still is, not immune to the injury plague. Beltran (back) and Demar Phillips (hamstring) were both listed as questionable for Friday's match, and neither received any playing time.

"It's tough not to have consistency," goalkeeper Nick Rimando said, "not to know what guy's next to you week in and week out, and to find that nucleolus between the back four, the back two, the midfielders in front of you.

"So it's hard to get that consistency among the players, but you do what you can. And we've been behind the eight ball this year with injuries and call-ups and suspensions, but we're working and we're trying to make it right."

On the offensive side, RSL needs to catch the scoring bug. On defense, Beltran said, it comes down to confidence.

"Once we get that swagger," he said, "once we get one result with 1-0 … if all of a sudden it becomes a habit, then it's infectious through the group, and then it becomes a part of who you are."

mlee@sltrib.com

Twitter: @maddie_m_lee




 

AT A GLANCE

Real Salt Lake

at L.A. Galaxy

Tuesday, 8:30 p.m. MDT

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