Soccer: Pope leaving, RSL losing
As the sun sets on the glorious career of Eddie Pope, more and more it appears that Real Salt Lake's season also might slowly disappear from the Major League Soccer horizon.
Pope's 2007 season, his 12th and last as a professional as announced Thursday afternoon and broadcast on ESPN2 during a 1-0 loss against F.C. Dallas, appears destined to grind to a ignominious halt.
Unless, that is, still-winless Real Salt Lake, which dropped another gut grinding decision to the Hoops, can somehow, someway pull itself together.
RSL forward Alecko Eskandarian called the loss in front of 16,278 spectators, "the most heartbreaking in my five years in the league."
The Western Division leaders' victory had a familiar conclusion, a late goal in stoppage time. This time, however, Dallas stole a tie from RSL, not victory as Dallas (7-5-1) did during the season-opening 2-2 tie. The final goal in that game also came deep in extra time.
Some might say that RSL (0-4-6) was robbed of a potential go-ahead scoring opportunity. Late in the game, RSL's Atiba Harris, who appeared to have beaten the Dallas defense with the ball at his feet, was knocked to the ground by defender Alex Yi.
Instead of a free kick, referee Ricardo Salazar waved play on. RSL coach Jason Kreis objected to the no call violently enough to warrant an ejection.
"I feel vehement about it," Kreis said. "My actions showed that."
Kreis will not be allowed on the bench for Sunday's game at the L.A. Galaxy.
Officially, Salazar said, "Jason Kreis was dismissed from the match for irresponsible behavior. No cards were given as cards are not shown to bench personnel. Suspensions are dealt with by the MLS league office."
As controversial as the game became late - it turned chippy overall the final 20 minutes, causing Kreis to take a gentle verbal swipe at Salazar - it can't mask the team's lackluster play in the first half as well as the lack of quality finishing in the second.
Eskandarian just missed a point-blank opportunity inside the 6-yard box during the 53 minute. Dallas goalie Dario Sala somehow got a shoelace on what looked like a go-ahead goal.
"It was weird," Eskandarian said. "I put it where I wanted to put it. Nine times out of 10, it's in the back of the net."
However, Real Salt Lake was really lucky that the game wasn't lost sooner, thanks to goalie Nick Rimando who continued to come up big time after time. Dallas fired 11 shots on goal, including two right on the door step, but Rimando saved all of them.
RSL managed just three shots on target, two by Mehdi Ballouchy, although Dallas' Chris Mandi nearly headed the ball into his own net in the 55th minute.
Pope, who plans to meet with RSL owner Dave Checketts when the season ends to consider his future with the team, believed that focusing on what was, or was not a foul shifts responsibility.
"From where I was standing, it looked like a foul," Pope said of the Harris incident. "For me, looking up at the screen, it was probably a foul. Again, if we finish some other chances, it's not an issue. If we get into the habit of blaming referees, you tied up in that too much. There are some things we could have done better."