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The Salt: Six minutes of hell, and how RSL went from 0-0 to 0-3 vs. RBNY

RSL went from bad to worse to inscrutable in just six minutes.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at New York Red Bulls Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

It doesn’t always take long for a game to turn on its head, and that’s exactly what happened to Real Salt Lake as they lost by a staggering 4-0 margin to New York Red Bulls on Saturday.

A scoreline like that suggests utter and complete dominance, but that’s not entirely what we had here. Instead, we saw a reasonably good Real Salt Lake side for the majority of the match.

But for six minutes, they had absolutely no answers, conceding three goals in that period.

Let’s take a look at what happened.

The first one: 58th minute

Honestly, I’m not intensely concerned about this goal. It’s very unfortunate, and certainly Aaron Herrera could have done better with his clearance here, especially because Marcelo Silva is behind him. Silva certainly shoulders none of the blame, given the weird shank of a clearance here. I do think New York was too easily able to get a very good cross in, and that’s probably where I’d start looking if I were to break it down. (We’ve got a bit of time with no soccer. I might just do that. Not tonight, though.)

The second one: 59th minute

We’d barely had possession of the ball long enough to do anything here, so the manner of concession is particularly shocking. We’ve thumped the ball long from the back — this is very typical of our kick-offs, and I don’t love it — and from there, we’re completely on the back foot.

I’m just going to share one screenshot here. Brooks Lennon is on walkabout on the far side of the screen. Marcelo Silva is just watching the ball. Our midfield is lost. This is bad. So bad.

The third one: 64th minute

I only need one screenshot here to properly communicate what happened. Just look at how weirdly disorganized we were. We’d completely lost our shape after the first two goals. No opposition player should be able to send in a relatively tame (but bouncing) shot like that basically uncontested. He did. Rough.

The bonus one: 83rd minute

This is a “counterattacking” goal that saw New York start from possession in the very back. I’m not super upset about the tactics here, but this team gave up.

So what happened? This is very clearly a case of a team falling apart. The first goal is unfortunate but not an indictment of the team, per se. The second goal is the team failing to identify a threat after trying to immediately change focus. The third goal was the team dismantling themselves in cruel fashion.

In those six minutes, Real Salt Lake attempted seven tackles. Five of them were successful. Sometimes, we look at tackles as game-saving maneuvers. In other cases, though, we need to look at tackles as the sign of disorganization.

Marcelo Silva attempted two of those tackles. He was dribbled past each time. Brooks Lennon had three tackles in that time. Four of their combined tackles — two from each — took place inside RSL’s box.

Does that mean everything? I don’t know. I don’t think so. But putting one center back and one converted right back on the same side, with the former not having played since the first game in April — the 4-2 loss to FC Dallas — and the latter not having started consecutive games since that same game? I might start digging ther.e

Is Real Salt Lake mentally weak? I would have absolutely said so in 2018. When we were good, we tended to be very good, and when we were bad, we tended to be horrendous.

I’d thought our 5-0 dismantlement headed by Wayne Rooney was a fluke. I’d thought our 4-2 loss to FC Dallas was the result of a team pushing hard for a win when already down. This game makes me think this is who we are, and I hate that.

I actually thought we’d started to put 2018 behind us. But when I look back, I see a team with only one set of consecutive defeats, and it was only two. But 2019 already has three sets, including one four-loss streak near the beginning of the season.

If Real Salt Lake doesn’t figure themselves out quickly, they’re going to find the season more of an uphill climb than I think we’d all expected.