Real Salt Lake: Montreal’s early lead makes RSL stats irrelevant

Real Salt Lake defender Justen Glad, center, defends San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski, left, during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, June 24, 2017, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Statistics can be deceiving.

In a 3-1 loss at Montreal Saturday, RSL topped the Impact in almost every statistical category—aside from goals of course—over the course of 90 minutes. Still, Montreal maintained control of the match. All it had to do was claim an early lead.

“It wasn’t a pretty game for us from the start,” center back Justen Glad said. “I thought the fight was there at the end, but it was a little too late.”

Even before Ignacio Piatti scored Montreal’s first goal of the night in the 11th minute, the Impact threatened with three promising chances.

A blocked shot, last-minute slide tackle and long touch later, the match was scoreless, but RSL’s defense was already scrambling. Center back Marcelo Silva also had to leave the match with thigh tightness in the sixth minute.

But there was plenty of time left to right the ship, even after Piatti gave the Impact a 1-0 lead.

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RSL forward Luis Silva’s 26th-minute equalizer provided the team with a potential turning point. 

Montreal slammed that door quickly. Piatti netted the go-ahead goal just three minutes after Luis Silva scored. Another goal in the 47th minute, this time by Anthony Jackson-Hamel, allowed the Impact to sit back in the second half. 

“We created enough chances,” RSL captain Kyle Beckerman said, “and I have to give a lot of credit to their keeper as he made pretty key saves for them to keep them in the game. It’s the way it goes sometimes.”

Evan Bush made five saves for the Impact, and RSL out-shot Montreal 19-15.

There have been times, like when RSL took 21 shots in a scoreless draw against Houston two weeks ago, that the statistics seemed to tell the story of a team that was doing things right and just needed something to break its way.

That wasn’t the case Saturday. Of course, if Bush made one fewer save or one of RSL’s shots that hit the frame had gone in, that would have altered the match. But because RSL was coming from behind for the majority of the match, Montreal was in the driver’s seat.

RSL’s possession advantage was by design as well. It gained the edge in the second half, when it out-possessed the Impact for 45 minutes but trailed by two goals for all but the first three minutes of the half.

“Tonight we kept the same pace even with many changes in the lineup,” Montreal coach Mauro Biello said. “I keep pushing the players so we become better. I’m proud of my players. They worked hard and they deserve credit.”

When he said, “many changes,” he wasn’t exaggerating. There were five to be exact. Montreal’s entire right side had a different look Saturday than it had in its 3-0 wins against both Chicago on Wednesday and Philadelphia last week.