Real Salt Lake doesn’t like to speak in “must-win” terms. The argument is it creates too much undue pressure on a team that understands what is at stake as the end of the Major League Soccer season draws closer.
But RSL continues to drop points in games that have massive postseason implications, as evidenced by a 2-0 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes, who started the evening two points ahead of Salt Lake in the Western Conference standings.
Now with just two games left in the season, RSL is still in ninth place and underneath the playoff line. Fortunately, Vancouver’s loss last weekend puts Salt Lake just two points behind the Whitecaps, who are in eighth.
“At this point we really have nothing to lose, to be honest,” defender Aaron Herrera said. “I think our only chance of getting in the playoffs is to win the next two.”
Herrera looked and sounded dejected in his postgame media session, and said the loss hurt and that it’s been an all around difficult year. He added that RSL will have to “do everything” to make the playoffs.
Against San Jose, RSL didn’t do enough. Midfielder Albert Rusnák said the effort from Salt Lake wasn’t good enough for a team that has eyes on making the postseason, and that “everything” needs to get better before facing off against the L.A. Galaxy on Sunday.
Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski scored a brace to increase his lead as MLS’s all-time leader in goals (165). He got himself a typical poacher’s goal in the 16th minute and gave the Earthquakes a 1-0 lead, and picked up the second in the 74th to give San Jose breathing room.
RSL didn’t have nearly as many chances against San Jose as it did against FC Dallas on Saturday as it went 90 minutes without recording a single shot on goal. That was mainly due to how San Jose congested the 18-yard box in front of goalkeeper James Marcinkowski.
Salt Lake ended up with the majority of the possession, but got outshot 12-9 overall.
Coach Freddy Juarez said RSL didn’t start getting comfortable playing against the Earthquakes until late in the first half. The back line was sitting back on defense a little too much. There wasn’t enough movement on the attack and if there was, it was only one player instead of multiple. That started to shift for RSL in the second half, Juarez said.
But it may have been too late by then.
“The way they play, you’re not used to playing against that kind of style and it took us a while today to figure it out,” Rusnák said. “We were already a goal down before we really started playing.”
Salt Lake spent a good a amount of time in the final third, particularly in the second half, Juarez said. San Jose blocked five shots.
“But we weren’t brave enough,” Juarez said. “I felt like multiple times, we got facing forward, 20, 18 yards [away], and we didn’t shoot. And you have to shoot. You don’t, you don’t score. Simple as that."
It was the second time this season RSL recorded zero shots on goal.