This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Sandy • Javier Morales stretched out his legs in the media room minutes after the final whistle blew on Real Salt Lake's 2-2 draw Saturday night against the Portland Timbers. The midfielder wiped the residual sweat from his head with a towel and started his rehydration process, but his attention was on the TV to his right.
The highlights shown were somewhere in the middle of Mexico's epic 7-0 loss to Chile in the Copa America Centenario quarterfinals. Until it was his turn to analyze the draw, Morales was glued, watching turnover after turnover unfold. Moments later, once the TV was turned off, the 36-year-old playmaker said his team has to eliminate the simple turnovers that continue to plague RSL in 2016.
"That is dangerous we have to improve," Morales said. "When we attack with the ball from the back to the top, we have to be smart with the ball in the middle. [Portland] scored two goals, but they could have scored a couple more."
For as dynamic as RSL's attack has been this year, the club continues to allow the opposition too many chances to counter-attack each week. And, lately, the opposition is capitalizing on the poor passes in RSL's attempted offensive build-up.
"You don't want to start giving up the same goals over and over," RSL coach Jeff Cassar said. "We'd be foolish if we didn't recognize those and start to address them."
It's a trend Cassar and his staff have harped on all year. In his post game press conference, the RSL coach reverted back to his usual explanation: It's about making the right choices in the center of the park. In the middle of the field, he said, completing high-percentage passes are crucial.
Especially at home, where most teams are lurking to pounce on a mistake. The Timbers did such when defender Aaron Maund and midfielder Sunday Stephen unsuccessfully tried to play out of pressure in the first half. Two heavy passes allowed Portland defender Jermaine Taylor to see forward Fanendo Adi secure better position on Justen Glad. The pass by Taylor was quick and Adi again proved his worth in front of goal against RSL.
"Our back line wasn't prepared if it turned over," Cassar said. "We were surprised, and defenders can't be surprised when things go wrong. You have to be proactive and be thinking the worst thing is going to happen."
It doesn't get easier for RSL.
On Wednesday night, the club welcomes in one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference in the New York Red Bulls a side that does not relent when it comes to providing pressure in the midfield and on back lines. Which means RSL will again have its work cut out against a proven team at Rio Tinto Stadium. The Red Bulls, according to midfielder Luke Mulholland, are the best team in the East.
"It's going to be no easy game for us," Mulholland said. "We've got to make sure we sit down, study their game plan and see what we can do to beat them. I think we just really need to have a complete performance against them. It starts with the first half. We need to be a lot better in the first half, and not switch off for 10 or 15 minutes at a time."
Real Salt Lake vs. New York Red Bulls
Wednesday, 8 p.m.
TV » KMYU