PORTLAND, Ore. -- Real Salt Lake went into July with the look of a team patiently waiting for the season to mercifully end. They went 1-4-0 over the five matches leading into the month and allowed nearly three goals per contest during that stretch.
Fast forward to today, and the calendar page is not the only thing that has flipped.
RSL coach Mike Petke’s plan to utilize the team’s two-week break as a period of intensive training is already reaping rewards, as the club has posted impressive back-to-back road wins while outscoring the home sides 10-3 in those two matches. Salt Lake would have had a clean sheet on Wednesday, too, if not for Jack Barmby’s shot from distance in second-half stoppage time of their 4-1 win over the Portland Timbers.
“I think with this break and even before that, Mike has instilled a belief in this side,” said Real Salt Lake defender Tony Beltran. “It’s been infectious and winning has been infectious and I think now that we have that feeling we want to keep it going.”
Petke, meanwhile, was quick to credit the players with the team’s recent surge.
“Every coach needs good players,” Petke said. “There’s no secret to it. In professional sports, if you don’t have good players, doesn’t matter how good a coach you are, it’s very rare that you’re going to succeed. My hat is off to them for their talent.”
With three of the team’s goals coming directly from plays that were worked on during training, Petke beamed about his players' runs and off-ball movement against Portland. It was not all about the attack, however, as Petke also praised his side's overall performance.
“It’s about how we created those goals, it was the other opportunities we had, the other shots that we created, and our balance throughout," said Petke. "That’s what we’ve been preaching the last month and to see them applying that on the field, it’s great for a coach to see that.”
Petke also attributed the improved play to having a healthy roster at his disposal. The RSL boss noted that his club was dealing with a lot of injuries during his first 10 matches in charge this season, but that it is now very close to full strength.
“It’s a joy that we’re finally putting things together,” Petke said. “You just sense once we get everyone back and healthy and we’re fighting for positions, the talent is there. It’s a joy to watch.”
While RSL have been successful as of late, they are not spending time resting on their laurels. They are still four points from the playoff line in the Western Conference and have a short turnaround given that a Saturday bout at home with Sporting Kansas City (10 pm ET | MLS LIVE) looms.
“We have to bring ourselves back to earth quickly and get ready for Saturday,” said Kyle Beckerman. “We’ll take [this result] and keep moving.”