We’ve had an awful go at the last 15 minutes of games this year. I mean, except for that Chicago Fire game in which we came back from a 2-0 deficit and won — that one wasn’t so bad.
But is it really as bad as it looks? Let’s get into some specifics here.
Here’s a quick list of games in which we’ve conceded late goals that cost us points. We’re defining late goals as taking place during or after the 75th minute.
1. Away to San Jose, we conceded two late goals, which saw the match equalized late. Whoops; two points gone there.
2. Away to Philadelphia Union, we conceded a stoppage time goal to drop two points. We also scored an 85th minute goal.
3. At home against Vancouver Whitecaps, we conceded two late goals, again allowing the opposition to equalize late. Two more
pints (ahem) points gone.
4. At home against Colorado Rapids, we conceded a late goal but won the game regardless.
5. Away against Seattle Sounders, we conceded a late goal. And three others. That’s probably fair. We didn’t drop points as a result of that goal.
6. Away against Columbus Crew, we conceded a late goal and drew the match, dropping two more points.
That’s eight points dropped as a result of late goals. It’s clearly not great, and we should have done better in each of those circumstances.
Against the Union, we could have done better on a set piece. Against Columbus, we could have avoided attempting to play an offside trap deep in our area. Against San Jose, well, we could have not let them do what San Jose does. Against Vancouver Whitecaps, Nick Rimando could have not committed an entirely uncharacteristic error to allow a dying-minutes, hopeful-at-best shot to trickle through.
Can we do better? Obviously. If we’d won two of those matches instead of drawing, we’d be top of the league without a question. If we’d won four — well, that would be stellar. But at some point, you have to accept that you won’t win every game, despite being in better positions. It’s just sort of the nature of the game, and it happens to even the best of teams. Let’s not get greedy with our estimates.
But if we’re going to talk about Real Salt Lake dropping points late in matches, it’s probably good to take a look at the truth of it all. We're not doing perfectly, and nobody would pretend that we are. But we're not in as poor a state as you might think. We have problems, and they're solvable: In fact, our set piece defense looks better already, and that was something that hurt us early in the season.
Is it just about decision-making maybe? Once we finish cleaning up our set pieces, and it's something we've started already, we'll be in a better position. Giving up goals from the run of play is somewhat inevitable, given that we have an attacking style that pushes forward with great frequency.
We've got plenty to improve upon, but our current position isn't so fatal to our chances this season.