No Real fireworks

By By Tony Pizza

By Tony Pizza

Everyone who came to the Fourth of July match-up between Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA knew there would be fireworks after the game. But on the crowd’s mind for 90 minutes of soccer was: Would there be any fireworks during the game?

Well, they came-but only in fits and starts, and to no avail, as RSL and Chivas played to a scoreless tie. RSL is now mired in a month-long, winless streak.

Perhaps the best chance for a pre-fireworks celebration Tuesday came in the first minute, when Atiba Harris beat the Chivas defense and sent a cross through the penalty box in the direction of teammate Jeff Cunningham. Chivas goalkeeper Brad Guzan misplayed the cross and, as a result, Cunningham was left with a relatively open net. Harris’ cross slipped directly to Cunningham’s left foot, but Cunningham could not redirect the pass, and the ball squirted wide, left of the unattended goal.

The opportunities for RSL never looked quite that good for the rest of the match, but the team was still able to create plenty of chances. In the end, RSL could only muster its second straight nil-nil draw at home.

“The good news is that we are playing good soccer. We out-played that team tonight, and we deserved to win,” RSL captain Jason Kreis said after the disappointing tie.

This result marks the second-straight time RSL has outplayed its opponent at home but failed to earn the three points to reward itself for the effort.

“We’ve got to be positive and say we dropped two points tonight; we have to have the right mentality and say that (one point) isn’t good enough,” Kreis said.

RSL coach John Ellinger echoed the team’s disappointment about another draw at home.

“It’s still discouraging. We are trying to make the playoffs, and we are trying to get points at home, and we know we’ve played well enough to win the last two home games.”

RSL seemed to have a playoffs mentality during the match. The team consistently put pressure on the Chivas midfield and constantly pushed the forwards and midfield flanks throughout the game.

In the 18th minute, Kreis slipped a pass to a charging Harris, which he buried in the back of the net, but he subsequently was called for obvious off-sides. In the 75th minute, Kreis sent the crowd into a frenzy when it seemed he had just scored his 106th career goal off a threaded pass from Cunningham, but a late flag from the referee’s assistant signaled that Kreis was barely off-sides-a call that Kreis did not dispute after the game.

RSL had a season-high 11 off-sides violations in the game, which not only stands as a testament to RSL’s aggressiveness, but also to how disciplined Chivas’ defensive line was in its off-sides trap.

A positive that RSL gains from a result that doesn’t reflect its effort is that it held the league’s leading goal scorer, Ante Razov, in check for the entire game. Chivas was able to create a lot of opportunities in the midfield, but RSL was anchored by a strong Kevin Novak effort and was able to slow the Chivas attack.

Another positive was the play of MLS rookie midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy. His puffy nest of hair flew all over the field, and he was able to ignite and get involved in many of the RSL attacks.

It seems like the mentality of the team has finally spread to all the players. RSL hasn’t been able to capitalize in front of the home crowd of late; but, like any good attack, the fans can see that something is about to give.

Game Notes: (leave this section as-is) Eddie Pope was bothered by his lingering lower back injury. He was taken out at halftime and scheduled to see a doctor Wednesday. It is unclear whether he will play when RSL travels to play Landon Donavan and the L.A. Galaxy on Saturday?The stalemate extended RSL’s winless streak to five games, but it also extended its unbeaten streak at home to five games. RSL’s last home loss was May 6 against Columbus, 1-0?That game was the first of an eight-game stretch in July for Real Salt Lake. The team’s next home game is a third-round U.S. Open Cup match July 11 against the Virginia Beach Mariners. The next MLS home game is July 22 against Western Conference leader FC Dallas?Jeff Cunningham’s yellow card in the 86th minute was his fifth of the season, but should not result in a one-game suspension. Cunningham went without a yellow card in three consecutive matches after earning his fourth, which makes him eligible for one of the yellow cards to be taken off the record.