If there's one obvious difference between the what we saw from the three games Cassar coached and what we saw tonight from interim coach Daryl Shore, it’s desperation.
We defended until the very last and players threw themselves into the firing line with a fire we've not seen so far this season. The defensive mantra was simple, get the ball away from the goal rather than play out of defence. Unfortunately, that desperation was also present in the top half of the field with two great chances in either half not quite coming off for the still new offence.
Ok, maybe I'm being a little harsh here. Bofo hit the post with his chance and made a brilliant run to pick up the ball and break into the box. Shore has had his hand forced by injury here but Bofo and Lennon on the wing have been a revelation as they've were instrumental in our attacking play tonight. Yura has been given much more time and space on the ball because those two have been putting pressure on the back line and the ball was whipped in time and time again.
Going back to those two first-half chances though, had Bofo passed the ball sideways Yura would have buried it. Then later it was Yura who missed the run from Silva and blasted the shot wide. Again, it's easy for me to say this from the comfort of my sofa and I'm sure this kind of chemistry will come over time but when you've got one goal in 3 games, it's hard to watch such fluid build up play not lead to a goal time and time again.
We slowed in the second half but still had a couple of openings. Sloppy play at the back in the opening minutes of the second half could have gifted us the lead but once again the chance was scuffed and Lennon had a good crack at goal, the last clear cut chance we had.
One thing Cassar got a reputation for is not making good use of substitutions and for me Shore got two out of three right. Swapping Silva for Hernandez on the hour mark was a good call as we needed some fresh legs and bringing off Bofo for the always busy Ricardo Velazco could have paid dividends. I didn't understand the Holness sub however. Sure he was killing time and seeing the game out so I understand what is was for I just don't understand why we did that. New York struggled with the same issues we did and that was finishing their chances and a third set of fresh legs brought on a little earlier may have tipped the balance.
Overall I don't think Shore has done anything different with the lineup and the tactics; I think it's injury forcing a change and two young wingers looking to keep a first team place — but we been looked more dangerous this time out for sure even if we didn't manage to find the net.
I think this is where we are vastly improved against the first three games. It's not flash and it's not fluid but we cleared that ball as far from goal as we can rather than moving the ball around in our own third. Not only that but the players chased the ball down until the final play and put their bodies on the line to keep that shut out alive. Maund and Schuler were both full of fire and it's a welcome sight.
Wingert comes in at RB with Tony Beltran out with a back issue and he was really dependable for a guy who was brought back to provide depth at LB. Without captain Kyle Beckerman in the line up there was a worry that we'd miss that bite in midfield but Sunny improved over his last couple of matches and Luke showed us his usual aggression in the middle of the field, leading to a few choppy moments!
I don't know what Shore has said to the defence, but tonight we played like defenders should. Maybe Maund coming back in gave the team a leader or perhaps the firing of Cassar gave them a reason to prove people wrong. But the switch to simple defending kept New York needing to restart their attack over and over again. With Sacha Kljestan joining Rimando on international duty New York struggled to keep the ball moving forward outside of the first 15 minutes.
Matt Van Oekel came in as keeper tonight while Nick Rimando was away with the USMNT and he was quiet in the first half but dominant in the second, throwing up three huge saves to keep us in the game. Again, Shore’s hand was forced but good for him to keep things solid between the sticks.
Thankfully we kept up the pressure with defending for the full 90 minutes and the game finished scoreless. Oddly enough, I've come out of this feeling exactly like I did after the Toronto opener. We defended well and kept that clean sheet but didn't finish the chances we created and we created more of than against Toronto.
The consensus between a few of the RSL Soapbox contributors was that Real Salt Lake played with urgency tonight, and I think that's probably the best way to say it. We got into the game right away and stayed engage for the whole game. Andy Graff pointed out in the Chicago game that you have to play until the whistle and the Daryl Shore RSL certainly did that.
With the next game against Minnesota only 8 days away Shore may get another game to flex his coaching skills. He will have given the back room staff something they will be happy for tonight and that's time to search for the right coach to lead the team as he showed a team in steady hands even if we're still getting familiar performances.