For 90 minutes Real Salt Lake did something they have never done in a match at Houston, or in the state of Texas, they dominated. Now that isn't to say that Houston didn't have their chances or that RSL didn't make any mistakes, but RSL attempted 160+ more passes than Houston, RSL held over 55% of the possession on the road, and had almost as many shots and shots on goal as the home team. Then you add in the stopped PK by Nick Rimando, and you would be hard pressed to think of a way RSL didn't leave Houston without at least a point, but as is often the case a single mistake cost them a needed road result.
Perhaps no match has been better at explaining the recent struggles of RSL than this match, few times has RSL been outplayed by their opponent this year, heck with the exception of San Jose no team has demonstrated they are superior to RSL, but still here we are on the edge of a measure of MLS superiority (back to back to back 15 win seasons) and I have to believe that many fans and players are wondering what if. What if a couple bad calls had gone their way, what if a couple of shots that were either saved by the frame or by a spectacular effort of a keeper had gone in, what if a few bounces had gone their way? For all the "What if's" there are the mistakes, flukes most of them but for some reason a rash of them, horrid back passes, failures to clear balls out of the area, and last week a most unusual miscue by Nick Rimando.
more thoughts after the jump:
It is strange that even in that loss, which was one many fans expected given the call ups and our run of bad results in Texas, we saw things that we hadn't seen for awhile from RSL on the road. Aggressive pressure, dominating possession, coordinated attacks, but all of them resulted in something we have seen a lot of lately, no goals.
I can say that at least this time there were some very dangerous shots but Tally Hall was up to the task, each and every time. It restored some faith in me that there are other guys who can pick up the slack when Alvaro Saborio is gone or unavailable.
So the question for me is what's next for RSL? Can they now head to Panama next week and pick up a critical road result in Champions League action? Can they step on the gas and not look back in that match knowing that away goals could be the difference maker on who advances to the knockout rounds? Then just days later the only home MLS match to be on National TV will happen as the Portland Timbers come to Rio Tinto Stadium along with NBC Sports on Sept. 22nd. can RSL dominate the Timbers like they did on their last visit?
RSL is battling to stay in one of the top 3 spots in the Western Conference and now trail the Seattle Sounders by a point, San Jose by 7 and are just 3 points in front of the LA Galaxy. Maximum points at home are a must and RSL will also need to show they can still get wins on the road if they are going to expect to stay in that top 3.
The FIFA break is letting a number of guys rest up, get healthy and hopefully the final weeks of the MLS season will reverse this nasty funk the team has been in since the end of July.
We have heard it said a number of time but for sure it applies this year to RSL, soccer is a cruel mistress.
OFF MY SOAPBOX