By their own standards, Real Salt Lake isn't getting it done as we move into the final weeks of the season. For one of the few Major League Soccer clubs to establish a style and challenge other teams to overcome it, RSL is in trouble. What once worked is no longer as threatening. A club that has had to put up with over a season's worth of commentary about their age, keeping a core group together, and their budget, from the outside it looks like another team being dragged toward the median.
By their own standards, 5th in the Supporters' Shield race with 29 games played to 27 for the teams in front of them simply isn't good enough. Their postgame statements in recent weeks speak to problems for a club that's expected to contend. It's not that RSL has gone negative, far from it. It's that there's always a reason they didn't win. Maybe it's the opposing team playing what Salt Lake considers negative soccer. Perhaps it's the weather, maybe the referee. It could even be an individual mistake. What it's not in RSL's view of the world is evidence of larger problems with their club right now.
That's a shame. We've seen enough of this to know what it normally does with a team. There's a version of the Salt Lake story that has them winning too soon. It's similar to what happened with the Chicago Fire in terms of League play, where that early championship didn't end up with a string of MLS Cups and dynasty status. RSL isn't unique. They're not the first team to use players found to be surplus to requirements at other clubs that turned out to be stars. They're not the first to have already established players undergo a career resurgence. They're also not the first to point at things not completely in control as reasons for trailing other teams in the table.
So far, that hasn't been the RSL way. This was a team that overachieved and then set out to prove that they were in fact one of the best teams in Major League Soccer. They've accomplished that, even without the trophies. Yet it only counts for so much without another Cup, won by a team that is expected to beat the rest of this League.
Corner Rating: (with 1 an early playoff exit and 11 a title) 7.5.
Last Week's Corner: We can't immediately change a rating on something that will need another transfer window to play out. We're staying at 8 for Liverpool's player acquisition policy.