SANDY — Left post, crossbar, right post. That about sums up another frustrating night for Real Salt Lake in 2020.
RSL dominated play against visiting FC Dallas on Saturday — especially in the first half as it peppered keeper Jimmy Maurer with 18 shots — but as has been the case on many nights this season, the finishing quality wasn’t there and the teams shared the points in a scoreless draw.
Adding to the frustration, Douglas Martinez, Pablo Ruiz and Damir Kreilach all hit the woodwork for RSL in a match that could’ve easily ended 3-0 had the finishing been to the left or right an inch or two.
Martinez’s miss was the most painful, a point-blank chance on a half-volley after a perfect cross from Aaron Herrera near the post that a striker should realistically finish nine out of 10 times.
Instead, Martinez smashed it off the post.
His miss came in the seventh minute, and with the field seemingly tilted in RSL’s favor the entire first half, a goal seemed like an inevitability.
It never came.
While getting a point salvaged something on the night, ties are not going to help RSL climb above the playoff line from its current ninth-place position.
“We are disappointed. It’s not necessarily just the result itself. I think it’s the just the fact that we had so many chances and we didn’t win the game. We need to be able to capitalize on those. So, disappointed we weren’t able to get the three points cause overall it feels like a game we kind of dominated and deserved more from,” said RSL defender Nedum Onuoha.
The gap between ninth-place RSL and eight-place Vancouver increased to two points on Saturday as the Whitecaps topped San Jose 2-1 with a pair of second-half goals.
San Jose remained in seventh place with the loss just two points ahead of RSL as well, with the two teams squaring off Wednesday in San Jose.
“Head up, cause now San Jose is a team that comes swinging every single game,” said RSL coach Freddy Juarez.
RSL will hope to replicate the same type of build-up in the attack that it did on Saturday, just with better finishing boots.
It ended up outshooting FC Dallas 24-8.
“I think we know there’s work to do and we need to win games. Now we’ve got to go on the road our next two games, and our season is on the line,” said keeper Andrew Putna. “We know what we have to do, and if we don’t get the results in the three upcoming games, we know our fate.”
RSL’s attack was buzzing in the first half as it created 18 shots, but remarkably it failed to put any of them away.
After Martinez’s miss, Ruiz banged his own long-range left-footed shot off the crossbar in the 34th minute. Later in the second half, Kreilach curled a shot off the outside of the right post.
Following the great first half, the chances weren’t nearly as frequent in the second, particularly later in the match after FC Dallas went to a five-man backline to lock things up and walk away with the point.
At the other end, FC Dallas’ attack rarely threatened.
“Overall I thought the defending commitment from the whole group, I thought our back line was very good in duels, I thought they were good in the collective. It was overall a good performance,” said Juarez.
Albert Rusnak was back in the starring 11 for RSL after missing the previous four matches while away with the Slovakian National Team for Euro qualifying and Nations League matches.
“Solid performance. I think we could’ve got him involved on the ball a little bit more in the first half. We kind of corrected that in the second half. Overall, it was good. It was nice to have him back. He offers some quality in there where he can get into tight areas and distribute the ball and start attacks,” said Juarez.
If RSL ends up qualifying for the MLS playoffs, there’s a good chance Rusnak may be unavailable again, as Slovakia has three more matches in those same two competitions Nov. 12-18.
First RSL needs to qualify for the playoffs, and dropping points at home won’t help matters.