SANDY, Utah – Real Salt Lake head coach Mike Petke wasn’t expecting to judge his team’s performance too harshly in his first game on the sideline. The weather made sure he’ll write this one off, even with a 3-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps to look back on.
The freezing rain and wind of the first half gave way to a snow-covered pitch and the orange high-visibility ball in the second half, but Petke saw plenty of good things from the Claret-and-Cobalt on Saturday night.
“These are building blocks and stepping stones,” Petke said. “The first half was very positive. The second half was very positive in a hard way.”
Despite not capitalizing on 11 scoring chances in the first half, Petke saw enough of what he focused on in practice to feel confident moving forward.
“I saw some positives based off what we initially talked about in one week,” Petke said. “In one week, listening to the certain little tweaks that we wanted to make, they took it and tried to implement it.”
“It was an advantage for us to play offensively from the beginning. We played differently today than in the games before,” said the playmaker. “Coach wanted us to play a lot higher with our wide men and with our backs.”
Forward Joao Plata returned to the lineup and created chances, but wasn’t able to capitalize on any of them. While players found good looks at goal, they didn’t put any away until the snow really started.
Perhaps because the first half is the only one worth critiquing, Petke saw some good things, but ample room for improvement.
“In the first half, as the snow was starting to fall and it wasn’t that bad, there was some very good stuff from us, but there’s still many things we need to work on,” Petke said.
The second half showed the other side of the coin. It was the fight and determination of his team in whiteout conditions that impressed him.
“The second half was all about grit and heart,” Petke said. “There was no way to play in the second half, but they got the goals in the second half. It was amazing.”
Three goals and a shutout is a dominant performance in any weather, and to get it with all the changes over the past few weeks was impressive. Even if the tables had been turned, however, RSL’s new coach would still be focused on next week.
“We won 3-0 tonight,” Petke said. “If we would have lost, it wouldn’t mean anything.”