SANDY, Utah -- Only three games into the MLS season, Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis is looking like a genius for bringing Costa Rican international Alvaro Saborio into the fold. Saborio tallied his first-ever MLS goal in dramatic fashion Saturday night against the Seattle Sounders, snatching a point for RSL in the final minute of stoppage time.
Saborio's clutch header off a Nelson Gonzalez corner kick leveled the match 2-2 and preserved Real's 12-match home unbeaten streak. It's been a very promising first three games for Saborio.
"I'd put my money on him scoring a lot of goals this year for us," mused Will Johnson, author of the first Salt Lake goal.
Saborio is clearly fitting in well in Salt Lake and carving out a niche for himself with the defending champions.
"I feel good. Hopefully I will continue like that," said Saborio. "But we are a little disappointed. We lost two points, and we have to [make them up] somewhere else."
Saborio's statement sums up very well the change in attitude over the last few years for Real Salt Lake. In the past, a late goal to salvage a draw would have likely made the team ecstatic, whereas now they see it as a missed opportunity to win - a loss of two points instead of a gain of one.
"We're very frustrated with a 2-2 draw, even though we scored in the last minute," said Johnson. "It's pretty quiet in [the locker room]. Guys are not happy with it."
With a brutal two-game road trip coming up, RSL has several weaknesses they will need to shore up if they want to have a successful trip. For starters, Real will do themselves a favor if they improve on their defense of set pieces. Seattle's first goal was set up by poor marking on a throw-in, and their second goal was a header off a Freddy Ljungberg free kick. Counting this match, all 4 goals given up by RSL this season have come off set pieces.
"Both the goals came off dead-ball situations, one of them off a throw-in," lamented head coach Jason Kreis. "We talk about these details a lot around are club, so that is very disappointing and we will continue to hammer home on that."
Another area where RSL are not showing the form they did during last season's playoff drama is in their usual tight passing and tidy midfield possession. While Real had more of the ball than the Sounders did, many promising possessions were killed by errant passes and poor touches.
"We're missing too many passes," said Kreis. "Tonight there were too many simple possessions that were given away."
Defensive midfielder and team captain Kyle Beckerman agreed with Kreis' assessment. "I thought our passing, our style of soccer, there were signs of it all night, but not our total game," he said.
With a difficult upcoming slate of games, the mettle of the defending champs will be tested. Whether or not they can respond may very well determine if they have what it takes to repeat as champions. RSL travel to LA to take on the Galaxy next week, in a rematch of last year's thrilling MLS Cup Final.
Should Salt Lake be more content with their draw? Explain in the comments.
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