This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated.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 • Once informed of the compliments D.C. United coach Ben Olsen laid upon him and his team, Javier Morales immediately shook it off. The Real Salt Lake veteran was in no mood after he had another front-row seat to the equalizing goal that sliced three points down to one.
Olsen marveled at RSL's new attacking group, saying the offensive weapons on display at Rio Tinto Stadium are the best in Major League Soccer at the moment. Their movement, understanding of one another, the variety of ways they can attack the visiting coach used all those attributes in describing Real Salt Lake.
But in the end, "it doesn't mean anything for me," Morales said. "I would like to say that, 'That's the best team.' I don't care about attacking or defenders or goalkeepers. This is about a team. We have to improve as a team and try to win games, especially at home."
RSL had eight shots on goal Friday and scored on one. Sure, it ran into a hot goalkeeper in Bill Hamid, who figuratively stood on his head at some junctures of the match. But RSL had its shot at burying a team at home, and again failed to do so.
Two minutes into stoppage time, D.C. stole points, continuing a couple of main themes of RSL's 2016 season to date. The late goal conceded punctuated the halfway point of the season for RSL. Game No. 17 of 34 was much of what the previous 16 featured: Top-notch creativity and flow at times, but not enough to suppress game-changing mistakes.
The late header by D.C.'s Jared Jeffrey was the 13th-consecutive match in which RSL failed to register a shutout, equalling the longest stretch in franchise history. The last time that happened? Year 1 in 2005, back in those Rice-Eccles Stadium days.
It's hard to harp on a third-place team in the ruthless Western Conference, but RSL (8-5-4, 28 points) managed and survived the nine of the first 13 regular-season matches on the road to get to this home-heavy part of its schedule. And the past few weeks, RSL hasn't managed to keep opponents out of the net.
As he typically does after a disappointing loss or draw, Morales said his team must be smarter in managing situations like the one it failed to do Friday. RSL also dropped to 4-2-4 when scoring first.
"Be smart means we have to control the tempo, we have to keep the ball for the last minute, maybe keep the ball in the corner or try to push the line a little higher, not too deep, a lot of things we have to improve," he said.
Yes, the club is still figuring itself out. How the team holds up over the arduous summer slate is another thing. RSL coach Jeff Cassar has chosen to ride his starters into the June and July, which will be something to watch as the dog days of summer set in. Cassar said Friday that his outlook entering the second half of the season is positive because of the strides the roster has made from 2015.
"I would say optimistic because where we're at is great and where we can be is going to be even better," he said. "I think the guys can see what we're capable of."
Forward Yura Movsisyan summarized the first half more bluntly. The RSL striker, who took blame for the result afterward for not capitalizing on his chances, said his team might be better suited to win games if they concede first. After all, five of RSL's eight wins have come after being put into a deficit.
"We've gotten some big results," he said. "If you see some of the games [up to this point], I guess maybe it's better that we get scored on first then we can win games."
Real Salt Lake vs. Montreal
Saturday, 8 p.m.