Not too long after Real Salt Lake was unceremoniously dumped in its U.S. Open Cup tilt, coach Jason Kreis issued a near ultimatum, and a pair of long time veterans vented their frustrations at a dismal on-field effort.
"We will go back to the drawing board, and we'll make sure that everybody on my squad right now recognizes that there is only one way to play here, and that's to give your best, and if you're not going to, you need to stand up and move aside," Kreis said. "The coaching staff is waiting for me as well as the trainers. We are going to look at the next 2 ¬½ weeks. I've said this once before in my coaching career and I'll say it now ... I would not want to be a player under me right now."
With 18 days between matches after the loss, Kreis has plenty of time to work with his squad, and vowed push the level at training.
While it might be easy to dismiss the loss, given that the team was missing four starters to national team call-ups and two other first-choice selections due to injury, what transpired on the pitch of Rio Tinto Stadium during the loss had nothing to do with tactics. The team created opportunities, and could have put the match away in the first half, but with a few exceptions lacked the energy or enthusiasm necessary against their second-tier opponent.
"We keep leaking goals, and we're getting away with it in league play," midfielder Ned Grabavoy said. "I think guys fought on our team, maybe it was too little, too late, and maybe we picked and choosed when we decided to fight.
"This is a different team than 2009 or 2010. I sometimes think we feel too good about ourselves. It's a different group, and we haven't won anything for a while. I think winning is a habit, and there's a lot of guys that still got to prove they can win, just win games, whether it's reserve league, first team, exhibition, games in training ... at this level it's all about winning, period."
Grabavoy, while visibly frustrated with Tuesday's result, hits on some key points that Real needs to address over its current break, which lasts until taking on Chivas on June 16.
Despite holding the top spot on the overall Major League Soccer table, Real has hardly done so in convincing fashion.
While it's true that Real's main starters have spent all of 59 minutes together on the pitch in 14 league matches, this is a team that has prided itself on its depth over the past few seasons, and that depth has struggled to make the same impact this season.
"I'm embarrassed right now to be honest with you," veteran central defender Nat Borchers said. "I can handle mistakes ... but I can't handle when we don't go out and try to fight.
"Every guy in this locker room needs to look at himself in the mirror and learn from the night, because you can have all of the quality in the world, but if you don't try then you're never going to get anywhere in this sport."
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