Sandy • Bobby Wood has played a total of 48 minutes since signing with Real Salt Lake. Those minutes have come over the last two games, in stints of 24 minutes.
But after RSL’s 1-1 home draw Saturday to the Houston Dynamo in front of a Rio Tinto Stadium crowd of 13,588, Wood sounded like he’s been playing since the start of the 2021 Major League Soccer season.
“We didn’t kill them,” Wood said. “It’s very disappointing. It hurts. We just have to try and learn from these mistakes.”
It’s a question that’s been asked of RSL for the entire season: Can the team, after earning an early lead, find a way to finish the game and come away with the maximum points?
Through the first nine games, the answer to that question has been “no” more times than it’s been “yes.” The most recent “yes” came against Vancouver, when RSL score twice in stoppage time after giving up an early lead.
But the “noes” have been glaring. Against Minnesota, at Dallas, against San Jose — all games where RSL had more than a puncher’s chance of getting a win, but instead settled for the draw or lost the game.
The same thing transpired Saturday against the Dynamo, adding another “no” to the list. Salt Lake has now drawn three games at home — a place that the club used to call a “fortress.” So far this year, it’s proven to be more like a locked door that can be picked with a paper clip.
“We’ll have to figure it out,” defender Justen Glad said. “We’ll have to either get a second goal, or shut it down in the back completely because we can’t keep dropping points at home.”
In regard to what the conversation has been within the team about trying to reverse this trend, Glad said the emphasis has been on “staying focused throughout 90 minutes.”
“Obviously something’s not going right,” Glad said. “At some moments during these games, we’re letting in soft goals. So I’m sure we’ll talk about it more.”
Glad scored the goal for Salt Lake in the 11th minute off a corner kick from midfielder Albert Rusnák, who had two assists in the previous three games. RSL had nine shots on goal and 13 corners. It forced Houston to clear the ball 29 times. And as a team, RSL had 19 key passes.
Those numbers are what coach Freddy Juarez focused on after the game, while also bringing up the many teams in the league — including RSL — that played three games in the span of a week.
“Do we want to win? Yes. We’re upset,” Juarez said. “But I think we did everything we needed to to win the game. And it comes down to one play where we need to show the guys and learn from it.”
Houston’s Maximiliano Urruti scored the tying goal in the 52nd minute in a sequence Juarez called “a little bit too innocent.” He would’ve liked to see RSL take a foul to stop the transition opportunity, he said.
Although Wood hasn’t been around the club long, he also suggested RSL didn’t show enough grit.
“I think sometimes we’re a little bit too soft,” Wood said. “We just kind of let things flow.”