Thursday, March 3, 2016
CONCACAF loss doesn't keep RSL from showing promise
(by Brad Rock deseretnews.com 3-3-16)
Not the world. Not the hemisphere.
Maybe the U.S. and Canada.
The only way now for Real Salt Lake to win something big this year is to do something special in Major League Soccer’s season. RSL opens MLS play Sunday at Orlando.
It can’t come too soon.
Though it’s only March, already Real has tried to win North America and failed.
Wednesday at Rio Tinto Stadium, Utah’s other major league team fell in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, losing to Tigres UANL on aggregate. That came as no surprise. A 2-0 loss last week in Mexico rendered Wednesday’s match at Rio Tinto almost irrelevant, as Real could only muster a 1-1 tie.
Tigres is arguably the best team RSL will face all season. Too bad for RSL it had to come on the front end of the season. There goes another shot at international acclaim. In 2011, Salt Lake lost to Monterrey, Mexico in the CCL final.
So for now, the approaching MLS season is the goal. Yet after two non-league games, there are still things to be happy about. RSL put forward strong efforts in both games. The threat of Yura Movsisyan and Joao Plata looks to be a productive blend.
Even in losing, the vibe with Real seems better than last year. The team took a 1-0 lead on Plata’s first-half goal, Wednesday. Had Movsisyan not hammered his shot in the 55th minute off the post, and Javier Morales not been stopped on his penalty try in the 74th, the complexion would have changed.
Through it all, 12 shots (four on target) were signs this team will score.
Despite being winless in the newly minted soccer season, the international games weren’t an abject loss for RSL.
“We saw some really good stuff,” general manager Craig Waibel said on his Claret and Cobalt Daily radio show, this week.
And on Wednesday, RSL saw even better stuff. Instead of lasting 60 minutes before powering down, this time RSL remained competitive until late. The matter wasn’t fully decided until Andre-Pierre Gignac got past Nick Rimando in extra time.
Aggressiveness wasn’t the problem, but jet lag and lack of live playing time may have been. Since gathering for training camp in January, Real has been to preseason camps in Tucson and San Diego, then on the road in Monterrey, Mexico. In addition, it opened the season just last week, while Tigres was in midseason form. It’s a format that has vexed all MLS teams. D.C. United also lost to Queretaro in the quarterfinals, this week.
If nothing else, Wednesday’s match gave Real a chance to air things out. This wasn’t a match to nurture and nurse. It was an all-or-nothing event. At the same time, RSL couldn’t get reckless. Everyone in Rio Tinto Stadium knew an early goal by Tigres would effectively end the suspense.
Turned out the goal didn’t come until the end.
Any fears that Real would come out flat disappeared abruptly, once the game began. It was a considerably more inspired team than the one that meekly exited last season. RSL broke through in the 22nd minute when Kyle Beckerman erased Andre Gignac at the top of Real’s box, after which Plata rolled in a shot.
It was as pretty a sequence as anything Real scored all last season.
Two games into the season, RSL has shown impressive persistence. But at halftime, you had to ask whether it was simply a replay of last week’s loss in Monterrey. In that game, RSL hung with Tigres through the first 60 minutes but faded down the stretch. This time it even had a chance at a second goal in the first half, but Plata missed on a header from center box.
Movsisyan nearly scored the equalizer when his shot from the box hit the left bar in the 55th minute. It might have worked had he tapped in the shot, instead of drilling it. Still, you couldn’t blame the effort.
Interest in Real is obviously high. The season ticket base continues to thrive. Wednesday’s match was a sellout. Meanwhile, the legislature just approved the addition of RSL logo license plates. Which may be symbolic. On one hand, Real’s international fortunes sank on Wednesday. On the other hand, RSL license plates could soon be showing up in Utah at every stoplight.