It's not Real Salt Lake's losses that have turned the season to mush. Not at all.
The simplest and purest illustration of that fact comes from the fact that Real Salt Lake has notched 11 losses from 27 games. While that seems like an awful lot, you need to look no further than Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps for evidence of that fact.
Vancouver Whitecaps are currently leading the Supporters Shield race with 48 points from 28 games. In that time, they've lost ten times. Ten. And they're top of the league.
There's something a little insane and distressing about that number. This season, 35 percent of the games the leaders have played, they've lost. But by the same token, they've only drawn 10 percent of their matches. That's shocking. Part of that might be down to approach, part of might be down to holding on to a lead.
MLS is a weird league. There's no point disputing this: Parity just throws everything into a giant blender, pulses it a few times, and picks out a champion, year after year. Sometimes, Real Salt Lake has been able to push past this for the most part. In fact, that's the case most years. But this year? Not so much.
There have been some statistical reports that appeared recently that suggest that in MLS, the most important attribute for a side is good finishing. It's not sane defending, good movement, passing frequency, any of that. At least, that's the theme of an article from American Soccer Analysis on the subject. Correlation's a funny thing.
Anyway, back to the point: Real Salt Lake simply has drawn too many times. They've taken wins and had them wrestled to the ground and turned into draws — or they've had too many draws turned into losses.
I'm as guilty as anyone when I talk about a draw being better than a loss. In fact, I stand by that point. One point is mathematically better than no points.
But at few times has a draw been the goal at any point. No, instead, our draws have come because we haven't scored goals, have rescued a goal or perhaps even two, or we've been in commanding positions and failed to hold on to them.
That's on us — and while it's not easy to immediately pinpoint why that's the case without having to refer back to a long list of issues (contrary to popular belief, it doesn't just distill down so easily to one atomic thing), it's at least worth recognizing the issue.
Let that sink in for a second: We've only lost once more than both conference leaders. There's something to that.