MADRID - Real Salt Lake allowed goals in the 27th and 31st minutes against the run of play to fall 0-2 vs. Spanish Segunda B division club San Sebastian Thursday, in RSL's final contest at Ciudad Real Madrid in the Valdebebas region of the Spanish capitol.
"We weren't able to connect on the final pass today, and our combination play wasn't as strong as it had been for the last week," said RSL Head Coach John Ellinger. "However, this is certainly the highest quality of competition we have seen in the preseason in any of our three years, and this loss should remind us of all the things we need to do to succeed. This has been a very successful trip; results don't matter until April 7."
RSL started the game in a 4-4-2 formation, with GK Nick Rimando behind a new-look back four, as DF Chris Lancos joined the selection on the right next to Eddie Pope and Daniel Torres, pushing Jack Stewart to left back. Captain Jason Kreis and Carey Talley assumed their usual midfield positions, with Chris Klein on the right and Freddy Adu as a pinched-in left midfielder, behind front-runners Luis Tejada and defending MLS Golden Boot winner Jeff Cunningham.
Cunningham came out of the gates fast, creating several chances in the first 15 minutes. Just 2 minutes in, a nifty give-and-go in the box with Tejada set up the Panamanian with a point-blank effort, but the offside flag was raised. Five minutes later, Adu and Talley executed a give-and-go at the top of the box, with Adu flipping the ball up in the air, over the defender and to Cunningham's feet, but his shot was saved by the onrushing San Sebastian 'keeper. In the 15th minute, it was Tejada posting up and dropping the ball back to Klein, who found Cunningham and ran onto the return ball, but his shot was deflected wide for an RSL corner.
RSL kept the pressure on for another 10 minutes, with Kreis, Lancos and Tejada each sending shots high or wide. In the 27th minute, the "SanSe" counter enabled forward Jusue to cut behind the RSL defense and go in alone on Rimando, who had no chance for the point-blank save.
The game was nearly tied up 1-1 in the 29th minute following RSL's best opportunity of the game, with Cunningham playing setup man at the top of the circle and freeing Tejada over the top. The Panamanian's shot was saved inside the six, but Tejada tracked down the rebound and sent the ball across the face of the goal, but a sliding Freddy Adu at the far post could not connect with the ball, which rolled harmlessly out of bounds.
In the 31st minute, a long diagonal ball for San Sebastian pressured Jack Stewart in the back, and he tackled the dribbler to force a corner kick. On the ensuing corner, a deep cross was centered back across the face of the goal at eye level, with a SanSe player knocking it in to put the Spanish team up 2-0.
At halftime, GK Chris Seitz replaced Rimando and Ivory Coast trialist Jean-Martial Kipre replaced Tejada, with Kipre filling in at left midfield and Adu moving to forward. Just three minutes into the 2nd half, Adu combined with Cunningham to free #90 in the box, but Cunningham's shot deflected off the 'keeper for a corner. On the next play, Pope's header was saved.
Kipre got involved in the game beginning in the 51st minute, taking a long, looping ball out of the back from Stewart and running it up the left side, then sending it across the box to Klein, who one-touched a centering pass to Adu. Ten minutes later, Kreis and Cunningham pinged it around in the box to Kipre out left, and the French-speaking player found Adu alone 25 yards out, but his long-range blast went high.
The final 25 minutes were all RSL, with Kipre, Cunningham, Adu, Kreis and 72nd-minute substitute Atiba Harris probing the San Sebastian defense from all angles. Despite the physical, destructive defense by SanSe designed to disrupt any flow, RSL forced saves from the 'keeper and earned numerous corner kicks, but could not find the back of the net.
RSL returns to the United States Friday night, with several players present Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium for the "Pick It! Ticket! Kick It!" open house event from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. MT. After training in Salt Lake Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, RSL travels to Los Angeles for five days, playing CD Chivas USA Saturday night, March 17, at John Elway Stadium in Granada Hills, Calif., before a week in Fresno, Calif.
RSL 0:2 San Sebastian
SS: Roman - 27'
SS: Manu - 31'
Nick Rimando (Chris Seitz 46); Chris Lancos (Atiba Harris 72), Eddie Pope, Daniel Torres, Jack Stewart; Chris Klein, Carey Talley, Jason Kreis, Freddy Adu; Jeff Cunningham, Luis Tejada (Jean-Martial Kipre 46)