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RSL needs to improve before quickly approaching MLS playoffs

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Spor

Letting losses like Tuesday's simmer is sometimes the only way to reason through the frustration.

So let it simmer I have - and I've come up with three things about that match and about this team. You'll note that none of these things are whether the players care, had enough energy, or were properly committed (they clearly do, they did, and they were), and none of this is about Jason Kreis (winning trophies is the job, but his staying or going isn't down to this US Open Cup final).

We still can't penetrate these tight defenses

I will confess to being a little frustrated that I wrote about our inability to "deal with compact, resolute defenses" less than a week before the final. (If you want to torture yourself, go about it here: It's not that I think that Jason Kreis should have listened to me or something (although, to be frank, it would be nice if he did. Hint, hint.), but more that we've once again seen this problem crop up. It's been our downfall once again. If that's not frustrating, I don't know what is.

We're not close to the finished product

We've done really well this season. There's no room for doubting that. Our core group of players have, by and large, continued their fine play, with some of them improving (Tony Beltran, I'm looking at you.) and most of them remaining at largely the same level. Our younger group of players have started adjusting well to the demands of MLS and Real Salt Lake. Our newer players with MLS and international experience have fit snugly into the squad. Squad cohesion isn't problematic, and as we've seen, pieces can be replaced in a fairly modular fashion. It's a very good squad we've compiled here.

But the squad isn't done. We're forcing young players to learn on the fly, and we're putting forward unrealistic expectations for our experienced players. Our veterans are stuck somewhere in the middle, doing their jobs as ably as ever, but still learning to work with a very new squad. In that way, we're not close to the finished product. It's admirable how well we've done, but we have to continue improving.

We need a good run of matches heading into the playoffs

Jason Kreis and company love to talk about peaking at the right time in MLS. It's hard to dispute the wisdom of this - gearing up for a knockout tournament by getting in that winning habit (is that actually a thing, I wonder?) is surely positive - but we don't have much time to fulfill that. Three matches remain, and we're looking at adjusting our lineup moving forward. Kreis has said he can't ignore Saturday's win against Vancouver, and he can't ignore the matches preceding and following that.

If we're to follow the implications, we should expect substantial changes to the lineup this coming Saturday. If we're going to make those changes, we'd be wise to set them in stone. We're very quickly running out of time.