Jefferson Savarino celebrates his equalizer for RSL. (Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)

SANDY, Utah — A night that started on a positive not for New York City FC turned into a disaster.

Captain Alex Ring scored in the fourth minute, but City could not hold onto the lead, allowing two late goals as the visitors dropped a 3-1 decision to Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium Saturday night.

“We played really well the first 15-20 minutes,” NYCFC head coach Dome Torrent said. “After that, they won every single ball, the intensity and we could not compete defensively tonight against Salt Lake. Everyone knows that it’s difficult to play here, it’s always the same. We were able to win against Colorado. It’s not an excuse, it’s reality and it’s not easy to play here. They played much better. I have to accept that they won the duels. They play with more intensity, they played in between the lines.”

The loss dropped NYCFC (35 points), fifth place in the Eastern Conference to 9-4-8 while RSL (34), in sixth place in the Western Conference. improved to 10-9-4. City played without its injured playmaker Maxi Moralez.

Ring struck in the fourth minute. He received a pass from Anton Tinnerholm with his back towards goalkeeper Nick Rimando, taking a touch and hammering the ball home.

“We got the goal early, which was nice, but after that we really lost control of the game,” defender James Sands said. “I think we probably should have been a little smarter because it’s a tough place to play. We’re away. We have a lot of games coming up we maybe should have brought some more players back to defend [and make] it a little easier on ourselves, but we didn’t and it cost us.”

In the 37th minute, RSL responded on Jefferson Savarino’s emphatic strike to knot things up at 1-1.

“We should have been up 1-0 at half, so obviously we were coming in [to the locker room] unhappy with a 1-1 result,” goalkeeper Sean Johnson said.

The hosts continued to roll in the second half. Albert Rusnák scored in the 75th minute to the near corner to snap the tie.

Nick Besler added an insurance tally in the 88th minute.

Sands said the performance “definitely wasn’t good enough from anyone.”

“I would say that altitude was tough, but really not an acceptable excuse at this point,” he added. “We played at Colorado, we proved we can do it. I think everyone just lacked a little bit of energy and intensity. It hurt us. We just have to come back stronger for our game on Thursday.”

Added Johnson: “We didn’t do enough overall. There’s no reason why we should walk out of here with a 3-1 loss.”