Date - July 13th, 2005
Round - 3rd
Opponent - Minnesota Thunder
Stadium - Griffin Stadium in St. Paul Minnesota
Score - Minnesota Thunder 6 - RSL 4
-RSL hits rock bottom in loss
(by Al Schoch desnews.com 7-14-05)
It can't get much worse.
Real Salt Lake's overworked and overmatched defense couldn't hold three one-goal leads, surrendered the tying score in the final minute of regulation, then was blitzed for two overtime goals in a 6-4 loss to the United Soccer League's Minnesota Thunder in a US Open Cup third-round match here.
"Ten years in the league, it's as low as I've ever been," said Jason Kreis, who scored three of Real's four goals, including the one that produced a late 4-3 lead. "Confidence is something that's very cyclical, either you have it or you don't. Right now we don't, and it's spreading like a rampant fire."
Matt Schmidt and Aaron Paye each scored in overtime after Paye's chip shot over goalkeeper Jay Nolly's outstretched hand forced the extra session.
That Schmidt and Paye were in position to score was not surprising. The Thunder had so many scoring chances, it was a miracle they didn't blow out their MLS opponent.
Paye sent the game into overtime in the final minute of regulation, wrestling the ball away from Brian Dunseth and beating Nolly with a high, arching shot.
"When you get in the 80th minute, and you're a Major League Soccer team, you should know how to kill off a game," said Kreis. "We just gave it to them."
The Thunder beat an MLS team for the second straight year in US Open Cup play. Last year, they edged the Los Angeles Galaxy 1-0 on the same artificial surface as Wednesday night's triumph.
Real was playing in its first-ever US Open Cup game, and remains winless on the road in their inaugural season.
"We showed them we that we've got character, that we can play this game," said Paye.
"We knew we had them back on their heels, they were a little fatigued. We have a bunch of fast guys and kept pressing them. A lot of us should be playing in the MLS," he said.
Real's defense was without injured Rusty Pierce and Paul Broome, while Eddie Pope (US) and Andy Williams (Jamaica) are with their national teams in the US Open Cup. On offense, Real sputtered most of the night, rarely completed two consecutive passes in a possession, and only Kreis' brilliance kept them in the game.
"There's no such thing as a nice game for one player," Kreis said.
The game at Griffin Stadium, a high school facility near St. Paul's downtown, saw RLS break one trend. The first goal by Kreis on a penalty shot came in the ninth minute, the first time all year Real has scored in the first 15 minutes of a match.
But things quickly soured for Real when Minnesota scored twice in a minute to take its first lead.
Melvin Tarley worked his way around Real defender Brian Dunseth, and when Nolley came out, he slid the ball under him into the net for a 1-1 tie. Before anyone knew it, the Thunder went ahead when Johnny Menyonger headed a pass from Jeff Matteo under the crossbar.
It could have been much worse for Salt Lake. Menyonger was by himself just to the left of Nolly, but his head shot trickled harmlessly past the goalpost. Matteo had another golden opportunity when Nolly slipped, but fired his shot wide right.
Minnesota was clearly dominating play when Real took advantage of a defensive lapse to tie the score at 2-2. Jamie Watson picked off a clearing attempt by Brundt, and fired the ball into the lower lefthand corner past Thunder goalkeeper Joe Warren.
"We tended to sit back," said RSL assistant coach Peter Mellor. "That's what cost us the goals, along with defensive individual mistakes. We can't afford to make individual mistakes."
After Kreis scored his second goal for a 3-2 RSL lead, Tarley countered with his second of the night. Kreis gave Salt Lake it final lead with a turnaround shot from point-blank range in the 70th minute before lightning struck for the Thunder.
What next for a team that's given up ten goals in less than a week?
"Good question," said Kreis. "It's going to take a man's effort, it's going to take everybody to decide that they want to be a man."
Welcome to the RSL Cup blog
I've been a fan of Real Salt Lake since it joined MLS and took to the field in 2005, and I've been a fan of MLS since it began in 1996. Lately however I've started to worry about the path MLS is taking and the poor decisions they are making that in my mind threaten the growth of soccer as a whole in the US. (see "Columbus conspiracy" section) Soccer in America will grow only when we have a vibrant and diverse minor league system, something that MLS seems to be smothering at the moment. (see "American soccer wars" section) Let's keep our eyes on the situation and hope for the best, a future where grass-roots soccer and the minor leagues can not only exist but flourish, as well as where the contributions and history of the league's early clubs are appreciated and preserved.