First of all, let's be clear that Real Salt Lake simply was not good enough against Dallas. Looking for silver linings at this juncture in the season when every point matters will do us no good. At all. Conversely, let's be clear that RSL has never done well in Dallas and that the odds were against them going in. It's a statistical improbability that RSL make the MLS Playoffs at this point and pretending otherwise is also dishonest. Possible? Sure. Odds of it happening? About as good as the Utah Jazz of ever winning an NBA Championship. What is left to play for, however, is advancing in CONCACAF Champions League. Those games are important and will be fun to watch.
We did learn a few things from the Dallas game. First, discipline is an issue. Dangerous tackles in particular have got to stop. Even if Demar Phillips tackle in the box was clean, it was risky. Especially given that he was shown yellow for a dangerous tackle earlier in the game putting him on the referee's radar. This has killed us in past games with Abdoulie Mansally and Elias Vasquez also ready and willing to make dangerous tackles in bad areas.
Second, when given clear chances to score, you have to take advantage. Juan Manuel "Burrito" Martinez came on and gave RSL a chance to tie things up by earning a penalty kick. We all know how that ended. Typically, we expect Javier Morales to bury those, but it did not play out that way. The issue is not Javier Morales. The issue is that all season long we have heard something similar to this after games that didn't go our way: "We created plenty of chances and on another night we could have scored five or six goals." This has been an issue for much of the season and it tells me that we don't have consistent finishers. Hopefully Martinez helps in this area.
Third, something is amiss. It's hard to know exactly what it is, but even the veterans like Nick Rimando admit that this is not the RSL of years past. There have been a number of variables affecting performance including but not limited to prolonged injuries, formation changes, front office changes, and younger and/or inexperienced players playing more minutes than expected. Even so, many teams deal with these problems and they don't necessarily see the downfall that we have seen this year.
In the end, things are bad, but they are not world-ending. Whatever issues are out there are fixable. It is also important to remember that if only points mattered, RSL could very well make the playoffs which is to say that there are plenty of teams worse off than Salt Lake. The young players have plenty of experience now which will pay off later. The residential academy is as good or better than any in the United States. Craig Waibel is just getting started with his ideas. Allocation money is on its way.
So for as much as RSL fans threaten to stop supporting the team if X, Y, or Z don't happen, we all know they are coming back for more. Because at the end of the day, fans are fans. Emotions get the best of us. And the way MLS is structured, anything can happen from year to year.