HERRIMAN — Real Salt Lake has lost its last three games on the road, making it crucial to find a way to win Saturday night's match in San Jose.
That won't be easy.
RSL is coming off a 70-minute rain delay at home that caused a loss in momentum against the Colorado Rapids for the Rocky Mountain Cup. RSL was up 2-0 prior to the rain delay but allowed the Rapids to come back to score two goals when the match resumed. What once seemed a sure win resulted in a 2-2 draw.
"That happens in games," said assistant coach Freddy Juarez. "It started on such a high and that rain delay broke that momentum. They adjusted a few things and we didn't quite respond to it as we would've liked. I think we had a good start so we've just gotta learn to control the lows of the game."
RSL must also find a way to win with head coach Mike Petke absent from the sidelines. Petke is suspended for one more match due to a viral outburst in a post-game interview at Minnesota United. Juarez has been filling in for Petke on the sidelines, but Petke is still present at practices and in the stands during matches.
"It’s a tough one. I mean obviously when he’s on the bench it's something extra because of his personality," said Albert Rusnak of Petke. "It does help us win when he's there but we were doing very good with Freddy and the staff."
Although San Jose is ranked last in the Western Conference with a 2-12-6 record, RSL cannot afford to become complacent in order to stay in playoff position. The team allowed San Jose to steal the 2-1 win at Rio Tinto Stadium in June 2017 and currently sits at sixth place in the West, just above the cut for postseason play.
"Those are always the toughest teams," Juarez said of lower-ranked teams in the league. "It's the hardest to motivate for. When you play a top team the players just quickly want to get to those matches. The reality is in this league there is not one easy game. They have good very good players up top that are creative and score goals."
A bright spot in RSL's offense has shown in Damir Kreilach and Joao Plata. During the match against Colorado, Kreilach logged one goal with an assist from Plata. Just six minutes later, Plata scored a run-up goal.
Despite being the shortest player on the team at 5-foot-2, Plata currently ranks as the lead goalscorer for RSL. Kreilach, who adds depth at the midfielder position standing 6-2, scored his fourth goal of the season against Colorado.
"We have to be balanced to have everyone in shape and to try go forward and to score the first opportunity," Kreilach said. "Every goal changes the game and we have quality we need to put on the field."