HERRIMAN, Utah – Real Salt Lake forward Sam Johnson wasn’t pleased with his time on the ball during last Saturday’s 2-1 home loss to the Portland Timbers – and made it known during his comments postgame.
“Even when training it’s difficult for me to get the ball from them,” Johnson said at the time. “They can see that I’m running around, and not very often I get the ball. I’m just running around on the field. They have to trust me, I’m a player on the team. They have to trust me. I’m a striker for them."
Then at training Tuesday, RSL head coach Mike Petke said the issue has been addressed with the 26-year-old. Johnson, signed from Norwegian side Valerenga this past offseason, has three goals through nine games.
“Sam’s new here, new to the country, to the culture, to the environment,” Petke said. “Sam knows that’s not acceptable to say that in public, whether you feel that or not. He knows it wasn’t right for him to express it that way. He talked to the team already. I had a long meeting with Sam, he’s someone who wants to help the team; he wants to get in behind. He’s new to how we want to play and sometimes his runs are a little off with the distribution of the ball, which is natural.”
“[MLS is] a difficult league to come to. It takes a while to get used to,” Petke said. “I thought he knew that. We had many talks before, and now he certainly knows it and it’s not an issue at all.”
An upbeat tone was expressed by 2018 AT&T Rookie of the Year Corey Baird. He called it something of the past.
“It’s something he said in the heat of the moment that we’ve moved on from,” Baird said.
For Petke, it was something that shouldn’t have been said, especially in that forum, but he understands why it happened that way. Petke has seen it before and that it happens to the best of them.
“My first year with Tim Cahill everybody wrote him off and he came back and had 16 goals,” Petke said. “That’s a big player, even [Thierry] Henry took a while to get adjusted here, but then he comes back. It’s a difficult league to come to."