RSL take a bevy of playoff lessons from draw in Portland
It's true, far more often than not, that a tie on the road in Major League Soccer is a good thing. And, for Real Salt Lake, a tie with the first-place Timbers in Portland on Saturday night provided many more positives than negatives.
Though the result made it rather unlikely that second-place RSL will have a shot at either the Western Conference championship or the Supporters' Shield, head coach Jason Kreis was more than happy to take some lessons from the 0-0 draw, which sewed up a sixth straight playoff appearance for the team.
“I look at this as a really good performance," Kreis told reporters after the game. "If we can do this performance on the road in the playoffs, we'll be in a very good spot.
“This is what you have to do when you're away. So I'm hopeful we can take some lessons out of this and carry it through the playoffs."
There is, however, the nagging problem of goal scoring, or in this case the lack thereof.
After Saturday's games, RSL still leads the league in goals scored with 55, but the team has put the ball in the net just twice in its last six matches and gone 1-3-2 in that stretch.
Kreis isn't pushing the panic button, but the end of the 2013 season is beginning to look a lot like the end of the 2012 season, when the Claret-and-Cobalt failed to score in their final five matches.
The RSL coach attributed his side’s failure to score against Portland on Saturday to “a little bit more focus on the defending side of things. When our players do that, we typically will succeed.”
Kreis did acknowledge that the team “lacked a little bit of sharpness in the attacking third of the field, and there were some opportunities where shots should have been taken and weren't.
“The goals were there to be scored. It was just one of those nights where they weren't taken.”
And with his team's struggles in front of the goal, much of the responsibility for preserving the draw fell on the shoulders of Nick Rimando, who made three spectacular saves to keep the clean sheet.
“We're going to need a player like Nick to do that if we're going to have any chance to win the Cup,” he said. “We're going to need our biggest players in Rimando and [Nat] Borchers and [Kyle] Beckerman, [Javier] Morales, [Álvaro] Saborío. Guys are going to have to step up and make big plays if we have any chance to win things.”