By: Jae Groll
Real Salt Lake saw their stellar MLS season come to an abrupt halt Saturday night at the hands of a determined FC Dallas side. Dallas advance on 3-2 aggregate and will face the winner of the LA Galaxy v Seattle Sounders match-up that takes place Sunday.
RSL were without their creative playmaker Javier Morales as the midfielder was suspended on bookings for the match. The absence of Morales was very telling during the first half as RSL struggled to get any type of rhythm or flow to their usually silky passing game.
Dallas came out early and played very positive as the game kicked off. Breck Shea had his 4th minute goal disallowed for offside on what was a very tight call by the referee’s assistant.[picappgallerysingle id=”10092908″]
The continued composure and organization of Dallas frustrated RSL into abandoning their usual carpet game and forcing the long ball over the top.
It all came apart for the home side on 17’ when David Ferreira lofted a ball to the top of the circle where Shea nicely chest trapped it into the path of onrushing Dax McCarty. McCarty nodded the ball down and coolly slotted past RSL keeper Nick Rimando for the icebreaker.
It wasn’t until the half hour mark that RSL began to find their legs and begin to string passes together. The last 15 minutes of the first hall saw plenty of possession for RSL but nothing to show for it as the teams went into the halftime break with FC Dallas up 2 goals on aggregate.
Oh, to be a fly on the Salt Lake dressing room wall during the break. Whatever choice words RSL coach Jason Kries used to fire up his team surely hit their mark as Salt Lake looked like a completely different side for the second half.
Real Salt Lake dominated possession in the second stage and were finally able to give service to their strikers who had starved for balls in the first half. RSL peppered the FCD goal with shot after shot but were either stymied by their own poor finishing or denied by the stellar play of Dallas keeper Kevin Hartman.
Finally on 79’ RSL super sub Robbie Findley, who had his fair share of chances wasted, found himself on the far post end of a Nat Borchers header and scored easily to give his team at least a chance to bring the aggregate scores level in the final 10 minutes.
The onslaught continued as RSL battered and hammered at the FCD goal. Time and time again they asked questions but could not find another goal. Even the 4’ of added time was not enough as the Dallas defense stayed committed and saw the result through.
RSL have an agonizing 4 month layoff until they resume CONCACAF Champions League play at the end of February against fellow MLS side Columbus.
The sour taste of this MLS Cup Playoff experience should be a great motivator to a side who squandered a record setting MLS regular season.
Man of the Match: FCD goal keeper Kevin Hartman. His superhuman performance between the posts was all that kept a determined RSL side from scoring the aggregate equalizer in what was a frenetic second half for the Dallas defense.