For the first 53 minutes, everything was working for Real Salt Lake.
Ten new players in the starting lineup, no problem. Shifting to a 4-4-2 diamond formation, no problem. Creating solid chances for goals, no problem.
But after that, a different RSL team showed up. One that conceded preventable after preventable goal. One that looked tired as the game got into the late stages. One that just didn’t have the comeback juice it exhibited in the previous two games.
It all led to a 4-0 RSL loss to Minnesota United on Sunday at a fanless Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minn. It was the fourth straight road loss against the Loons.
RSL fell apart in the second half, leaving the team searching for answers.
“We’re disappointed, to be honest,” defender Nedum Onuoha said. “I think given how the first half went, we felt pretty comfortable. I don’t think they were really looking like they were going to open us up at all. So to finish the game losing 4-nil, we need to really take a good look at ourselves.”
The game stood scoreless at halftime, but RSL had appeared to score two goals in that time frame. First-half goals from forward Giuseppe Rossi and Onuoha were both called back by referees. Rossi’s looked to pass the goal line, but coach Freddy Juarez said referees conveyed to him that the angles on video were either inconclusive or not the same as those shown on replay.
Then the Loons started picking RSL apart. Their first goal came in the 53rd minute on a sequence where they evaded tackles from defenders, switched play to the left side of the field, and caught RSL goalkeeper Zac MacMath seemingly out of position. The next two goals came from similar sequences.
But it was that first one that deflated Salt Lake.
“We couldn’t quite put our stamp back on the game after that,” midfielder Nick Besler said.
RSL conceded first in each of the previous two games but fought back in each one to force draws against the Portland Timbers and the Seattle Sounders. That didn’t happen Sunday, and Juarez took some responsibility for that.
“Some guys are not 90 minutes fit, so that’s my fault on the subbing part because I could’ve maybe got some fresh legs,” Juarez said.
Against Portland and Seattle, Juarez made his first substitution in the 66th minute and halftime, respectively. Against the Loons, his first move didn’t come until the 73rd minute, at which point RSL trailed 2-0.
Onuoha didn’t want to speak too in depth about the possible defensive miscues before taking a deeper look at the game and getting past the initial emotion of the loss. But he did offer some insight.
“I think there’s a mistake probably involved in every single goal,” Onuoha said.
RSL prides itself on being a good defensive team. But in the past three games, the team has conceded 10 goals. However, two of those games have been draws. So Sunday is the first time since the 5-2 loss against San Jose — an MLS is Back Tournament game — that it’s come back to bite them.
RSL now has a makeup home game against LAFC coming up Wednesday.