We've seen it before. Real Salt Lake fans know the "what if?" feeling all too well after games like this. Looking back at Real Salt Lake's 1-1 draw at home against Tigres UANL, one can't help but ask those same questions. What if Javi's PK went in? What if Movsisyan didn't hit the crossbar? What if?
RSL came into Wednesday night's match hoping to come back from a 2-0 first leg deficit and become the only MLS team to secure a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals. They came out playing aggressively and a 22nd-minute goal from Joao Plata put them in the position where they only needed one more goal to force the game into extra time.
After that, RSL still seemed to control the game, but despite several great chances, couldn't find the back of the net again.
Yura Movsisyan had a golden opportunity in the 55th minute when he found himself with the ball in front of an open net on the far post, but put his shot just high and off the crossbar.
Movsisyan's shot in the 55th minute hits the crossbar.
The 74th minute saw Javier Morales shooting from the penalty spot after Burrito Martinez was fouled at the edge of the box, but Tigres goalkeeper Nahuel Guzmán got a hand on it to keep it out of the goal.
Despite a very good showing that featured plenty of attacking movement and control for much of the game, it seemed to be that missing final spark in the finishing department that kept them from advancing to the semifinals.
Fans have continued to find this as a source of their frustration as they have seen scenarios like this before. Thinking back to the infamous 2011 CCL final at Rio Tinto Stadium when RSL needed just one goal to win but couldn't find the back of the net, it feels like an eerily similar situation.
All the "what ifs" in the world can't change the outcome of Wednesday's match, but with 12 shots and only 4 on target, it's hard not to wonder what this game would have been like if RSL were able to put one or two more of those in the goal and push the game to extra time, or even win the series outright.
Are there positives to take away from this game ahead of the 2016 MLS regular season? Watching the play in the final third between Morales, Plata, Martinez, and Movsisyan would suggest that there is plenty to look forward to this year. Despite the finishing not quite being there on Wednesday, it seems that with a little sharpness and a little more time for the newer players to settle in, Real Salt Lake has the potential to be a very dangerous team for its opponents this season.