Monday, May 4, 2009

Another Road Game, Another Loss

Do 6 games, make a trend? If so, RSL's trend is to be dominant at home and dominated on the road. The team is 3-3-0 on the season with 3 wins at home (all against Eastern Conference teams), and 3 losses on the road. However, that doesn't tell the entire story. The real story is that Real Salt Lake has played sensational at home and played awful on the road. If they had been competitive in their road matches, I don't think many eyebrows would be raised, but this makes you go, "hmm".

For a team that was leading the league in goals and shots per game to suddenly play a game in which they only manage 7 shots (3 by Kyle Beckerman from long range) and 0 shots on goal is shocking. Even though they played nearly 50 minutes down a man, you would expect a team as potent as RSL to manage at least 1 shot on goal.

So what's the reason for this road futility? Or has the home dominance been a fluke? And more importantly, can they turn things around away from Rio Tinto?

One thing to point out is the level of competition on the road versus at home. Although New York appears to be a struggling team, both of their other road opponents were pretty good. Seattle has surprised everyone with the quality of play to start the season, and don't look now but Colorado is actually starting to put things together.

On the other hand, the home opponents may have appeared to be quality teams, but RSL caught them at the right time. They played Columbus in the middle of a stretch of mostly road games with an unhealthy Robbie Rogers. They played a decimated New England side missing several starters and DC was missing Moreno and Ben Olsen who have been critical at times for that team in wins this season. Future home games will not come so easily - including this Wednesday against the LA Galaxy.

To me there is one simple reason for the awful performances on the road: early goals (17th minute in Seattle, 2nd minute in New York and 11th minute in Colorado). Although I'm not sure how many they'll win on the road this year, I believe that RSL would be competitive on the road if they stop giving up early goals. For this reason, many teams choose a "weather the storm" approach on the road, but unfortunately that just isn't in this teams DNA.

As for the match itself, RSL exhibited poor marking, poor passing in the midfield and bad judgement at times. For the second straight game against their rivals, Pablo Mastroeni has shut down playmaker Javier Morales. Olave's red card sealed their fate. And the team could not generate any attack. Next.