After three straight games of solid play and picking up nine points in the process, Real Salt Lake succumbed to a difficult situation that included travel and a dramatic lineup change.
RSL lost 2-1 Wednesday to the Montreal Impact, snapping its three-game winning streak. Five of the 11 starters players did not start for Salt Lake last week, confirming what coach Mike Petke said days before the game: Significant lineup changes were on the table.
“Obviously we had some tired guys from the Friday game putting in a shift tonight so we’ll have to really think closely about who’s on the field on Saturday and how we’re going to approach this game,” Petke said. “It’ll be right back to work after this with the coaches and figure out how we’re going to approach the Red Bull game.”
Those changes weren’t for any reason other than timing. Real needed fresh bodies during a stretch of three games In nine days, the first of which was the dramatic win over Atlanta United last weekend. RSL’s depth was likely to be tested not only against Montreal, but against the New York Red Bulls as well in just a few days.
Whether or not Salt Lake’s reserves-turned-starters proved up to the task is up for debate. But Petke was disappointed in how his team played in key moments of the game. One of those moments came seconds before the halftime whistle, when RSL gave up the first goal of the game.
“We worked on something specific all week and the first goal comes from us not executing that when we executed the first 46 minutes and 50 seconds,” Petke said.
Omar Browne made a run into the penalty box and received a pass from Shamit Shome. Browne, who had several defenders around him, shot the ball past goalkeeper Nick Rimando for the goal and the 1-0 lead.
“I just think we got a little drawn out,” Justin Portillo told KMYU when asked what he saw on the goal.
Later in the game, defender Donny Toia clipped an Impact player in the box, resulting in a foul. Saphir Taïder buried the penalty shot and gave Montreal a 2-0 advantage in the 68th minute.
RSL cut its deficit in half in the 84th minute. Erik Holt sent a ball into the box to Damir Kreilach, who headed it down to the ground. The ball went past Corey Baird and right to the path of Sam Johnson, who finished it from close range.
But Salt Lake could not get the equalizer in the remaining 10 minutes of the match, which included four minutes of stoppage time.
“I thought 100 percent we were going to get the equalizer and make it 2-2,” Brooks Lennon said. “We were definitely pushing for the second goal and I thought it was coming.”
RSL had to work hard just to not fall behind in the first few minutes of the game. The Impact imposed their will in the first five minute of the game to the point that Rimando had to make a split-second save to keep the game scoreless.
Petke felt RSL did not play passes in the right ways and also thought it did not attack in moments where attacking was possible.
“A lot of times we played negative balls tonight,” Petke said. “A lot of times we weren’t as daring with the ball as we’ve been the last three games and I think that cost us.”