Approximately 18,516 fans roared loudly at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday as Real Salt Lake got ready to play Columbus Crew, who is currently second in the Eastern MLS Division standings.
However the fans were disappointed as RSL went on to lose 2-0.
RSL started off rather uncharacteristically in the defensive position, fending off a goal by Columbus Crew’s Josh Gardner in the fourth minute.
Struggling to move the ball up the field, RSL gave up an early goal in the fifth minute from Eddie Gaven, who was assisted by teammate Robbie Rogers, giving the Crew the early 1-0 lead.
“I haven’t been here that long, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen somebody get scored on that quick,” said RSL’s Arturo Alvarez.
RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy attempted to even the score in the sixth minute with a potential goal, but his attempt proved futile, as the ball flew over the opponent’s goalpost. Columbus then switched over to the offensive side, narrowly missing a corner kick by Josh Gardner and yet another well-aimed corner kick by a fellow teammate.
Then, in the 10th minute, Rogers had his second assist of the night when he connected with teammate Tommy Heinemann for the team’s second goal.
And just like that, within 10 minutes of the game’s commencement, RSL was down 2-0.
RSL midfielder Andy Williams said he attributed the Crew’s second goal to a bad play by himself and his teammates.
“We were prepared, but I just think [Columbus Crew] came out with a gameplan and caught us napping a couple times,” Williams said. “That first goal was the real difference tonight. If it hadn’t gone in, it would have been a different ball game.”
The next few minutes of the game consisted of nearly frantic efforts by RSL to set up goals.
RSL defender Robbie Russell narrowly failed in an attempt to set up a goal, and shortly after, forward Jean Alexandre came within inches of scoring a 23rd-minute goal. The assist from teammate Fabian Espindola was of no avail.
RSL struggled to maintain an offensive position as the first half drew to a close. After a mad scramble in the 41st minute, RSL’s Ned Grabavoy’s attempted shot zipped over the top of the net.
Real coach Jason Kreis said the first 10 minutes of the game were crucial and caused RSL to play desperately.
“To me, our deficit in the first 10 minutes of that game came down to mental lapses,” he said. “We were down quickly to a team that’s very good defensively and works hard together.”
Despite the early deficit, RSL came out fired up in the second half.
Local players Espindola, Chris Schuler and Tony Beltran missed several opportunities to score.
After switching sides with Columbus and playing much more offensively than in the first half, RSL knew it was running out of time by the 76th minute.
It needed to score, and fast.
As if an answer to RSL’s desperation, Espindola broke away from two defenders, maneuvered the ball away from a Crew player and went for the score, but Columbus goalie Andy Guenebaum scooped up the ball before Espindola was able to do so.
As RSL’s offense persisted in attacking and setting up shots, the clock ran out, and the Crew walked off with the win.
“I think [the team] was frantic tonight and certainly a bit frustrated, but I’m pleased with the effort and the fight in the second half,” Kreis said. “I don’t think anyone out there quit. To me it seemed like they did the best they could to get back into it.”
Alvarez said he knew the team needs to look forward and focus on the next opponent.
“We have to forget about this game and turn this thing around to do things right,” Alvarez said.