SANDY — In the opening weekend of MLS last week expansion Los Angeles FC surprised everyone by winning at reigning Western Conference champ Seattle 1-0, while Real Salt Lake was less than 10 minutes away from stealing a road win as well at FC Dallas, ultimately settling for a 1-1 draw.
Projecting how those matches would’ve played out if the calendar had read May instead of March, Real Salt Lake coach Mike Petke said the score lines would’ve been much different, something more like 3-3 or 4-3 in both matches.
“You can play all the preseason games you want, you can practice all you want for six weeks, when you get to a stadium, on TV, in an MLS game the rust will show more, and all teams have rust,” said Petke.
“Seattle could’ve had a ton of goals against LAFC. LAFC could’ve had more goals against Seattle. Dallas could’ve had a ton of goals against us. We could’ve had a ton of goals against them.”
Petke points to Jefferson Savarino’s chance late in the Dallas game as the perfect example of that rust.
“Who would’ve thought Savarino would miss a breakaway once he gets by the goalkeeper. Tired legs, late in the game, heavy touch and that’s all part of the long season process,” said Petke.
Most of RSL’s rust came in the attacking half, but that’s something it hopes to knock off this Saturday in the home opener at Rio Tinto Stadium against expansion LAFC (1:30 p.m., KMYU).
Petke was pleased with how Nick Rimando, the back four and then Kyle Beckerman and Damir Kreilach played off the back at FC Dallas but said the attack stalled a lot when transferring the ball upfield.
Consistently breaking through those lines will be key against a LAFC squad beaming with confidence after its historic win at Seattle.
The Sounders did not trot out a full squad for the opener last weekend against LAFC, instead preferring to rest key starters for Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Chivas de Guadalajara. Despite losing the league match, Seattle prioritized the match against Chivas and prevailed 1-0.
Petke said that should not have minimized LAFC’s win whatsoever.
“Everyone is talking about Seattle’s lineup, but that doesn’t mean anything. Going to Seattle and getting a result is pretty difficult to do,” said Petke.
This season RSL is focused on making Rio Tinto Stadium a difficult place to play again. Despite missing the playoffs last year, Real Salt Lake went 5-0-3 at home over its last eight games, including winning its last five games.
“We’re at home for the first time this season and we’re excited and ready to make the Riot our fortress again,” said defender Justen Glad. “We want to show our fans something good, we want to get them excited for the season, and I think we’re all excited to play LA in front of our fans for the first time again and really show them what we’ve been working on again.”
RSL is 4-0-5 all-time in season openers at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Its backline could get a shake-up this weekend after Marcelo Silva left Friday’s training session early with an undisclosed injury.
When asked about it, Petke simply said “we’ll see tomorrow.”
If Silva is unable to go, Davis Horst would seem the likely replacement. Then again, Shawn Berry was brought in for his flexibility along the backline and he could shift to center back from the right-back position he started at last week. That’s only realistic if Adam Henley is healthy enough to start at right back after he missed the Dallas game because of an injury picked up in the final preseason game.