First, it lost Freddy Adu. Then, Real Salt Lake lost the game.
Just hours after its most marketable player left town to finalize a long-awaited transfer to Benfica in Portugal, reconstructed RSL wasted its first opportunity to pick up points in the second half of the Major League Soccer season by giving up the game-winning goal off a free kick in the 82nd minute of a 2-1 loss to the New England Revolution in front of 13,193 fans at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday night.
"Losing at home, it's unacceptable," midfielder Kyle Beckerman said.
Yet it's hardly anything new.
RSL has lost four straight games, and six of its last seven, to fall to 1-9-6 and remain on pace to win fewer games than any team in league history. The real news occurred in the morning, when Adu boarded a flight to his new home after training all week with the RSL starters in anticipation of playing against the Revs.
Team spokesman Trey FitzGerald
said Adu was scheduled to travel to his family home in Washington, D.C., before joining his mother and agent on a flight to Lisbon today. Adu is expected to sign a 5-year contract that will pay him roughly the same as his $550,000 annual salary in MLS, with housing and car allowances and goal bonuses as part of the deal.
Benfica will pay a $2 million transfer fee to MLS, and RSL will receive a major allocation worth $500,000 as its share of the compensation.
In addition to the $350,000 of salary-cap room that Adu's departure will create, the major allocation will give coach Jason Kreis even more financial latitude in rebuilding the team. Two Argentinean players - striker Edgar Espinola and midfielder Javier Morales - are expected to join the team in training as trialists on Monday. Two other players, Uche Chinyere of Nigeria and Tony Versailles of France, already are working out on trial with RSL.
"It gives us a tremendous opportunity to have money to spend, a roster spot to use, to bring in another talented piece of this puzzle we're still trying to create," Kreis said.
The puzzle might have looked closer to complete had RSL not given away another game in the final minutes.
Though they sluggishly played the ball through the air too much in the first half, the team seemed to make strides as it incorporated most of its new players (striker Alecko Eskandarian sat out with hamstring and heel injuries). But RSL's Carey Talley was called for a questionable foul on Larentowicz just outside the penalty box in the 82nd minute, and Larentowicz curled his free kick into the left corner of the goal.
"About the call in the end, I'd rather not get fined," Talley said. "I'm going to leave it at that."