SANDY — A quarter of the way through the 2018 MLS season, Real Salt Lake sits at 10 points in the Western Conference in what has been an up-and-down season for coach Mike Petke’s team.
Even though 10 points is good enough for fifth place in the West at the moment, the projected 40 points would definitely leave RSL on the outside of the playoff picture looking in for a second straight season.
Despite alternating wins and losses over the past seven games, the players are confident they’re trending in the right direction. In fact, Albert Rusnak believes the performance in a 2-0 loss at Vancouver last Friday was the best of the season.
“Up to the first goal we were the dominating team, we were the better team that’s without a doubt,” said Rusnak. “That was the best game we’ve played on the road or home as in how we played and how many passes we connected, and chances created, and the pressure we put on them and we didn’t sit behind the ball although we played on the road.”
All the positive play in the attack didn’t lead to anything tangible though, with Vancouver eventually scoring twice in the final 15 minutes for the win.
The confidence displayed in the first 75 minutes before conceding could be a sign that RSL is close to breaking out of its rut in what’s been a very inconsistent season.
Three weeks ago in a 2-1 victory over Vancouver at Rio Tinto Stadium, RSL had 46 percent of the possession, connected on 77 percent of its 365 pass attempts and recorded nine shots.
At Vancouver last Friday in the 2-0 loss, every one of those stats was markedly better. RSL had 69 percent of the possession, connected on 84 percent of its 575 passes and recorded 18 shots.
At the end of the day, goals is the only meaningful stat in soccer, and Real Salt Lake still had a goose egg in the second meeting.
Petke has talked often about his team’s perceived lack of confidence this season, and it’s usually been evident on the stat sheet with the lack of chances created. That was not the case in Vancouver.
“I thought until about the 70th minute we played good soccer, and that was an improvement for sure from the last couple games, even though we lost it was a positive out of the night,” said defender Justen Glad.
Turning that confidence into points on the road will be the next step for Real Salt Lake, and it will have numerous of opportunities to accomplish that in the coming weeks. It travels to Orlando this Sunday, and after a home game against D.C. United on May 12 it hits the road again for back-to-back games at Philadelphia and at Seattle.