Damir Kreilach scored a hat trick. Albert Rusnak finished with two goals and an assist, and Jefferson Savarino continued his hot streak with a goal and two assists of his own. Justen Glad and Nick Besler kept Zlatan Ibrahimovic off the scoreboard. All exactly how Petke and his staff drew it up.
“We played unbelievably good,” Kreilach said. “We controlled the game from the second minute. It was amazing. We put the whole game plan in. We created a lot of chances. It’s not [always] so easy, but it was brilliant from us tonight.”
Arriving on the heels of last week’s 6-0 Rocky Mountain Cup rout of Colorado, Saturday’s win was the second straight game in which RSL have scored six goals, the first time such a feat has happened in MLS history.
Salt Lake remain in fourth place in the Western Conference and now sit just one point behind third-place Sporting Kansas City – and they’ve have added 10 goals to their goal differential in their last two matches.
“Tonight was almost a complete 90 minutes, to be able to sit there from the start of the game and watch the specific things we talked about and worked on in training actually perfectly taking place,” Petke said. “Hats off to my assistant coaches and the players for executing.”
The RSL defense handled the Galaxy attack, limiting Ibrahimovic’s influence. Rusnak kept finding space between the lines. Kyle Beckerman looked forward with every touch. Savarino and Joao Plata put themselves in great positions to push the attack.
Everyone put in a full 90 minutes and Petke was flowing with praise, offering each of his players a game ball – if he actually gave out game balls.
“The attention to detail of my players, they’ve done it all year but in spurts. But tonight was just 90 minutes of them literally executing what we talked about,” Petke said.
Offensively, the key to the past few games has been the growing understanding between Rusnak and Kreilach. On the lineup sheet, Rusnak is the No. 10 and Kreilach the false 9, but to RSL they don’t have set positions any longer as they drift and interchange.
“There’s two positions tonight that we didn’t identify to our players,” said Petke, “and that was Damir and Albert. Someone always had to occupy the center backs and someone had to drop in,” Petke said.
With Plata and Savarino having the freedom to stay wide, combine in the middle or overload on one side, spaces duly opened up and Salt Lake converted their chances in bunches. They’re 6-2-3 since the beginning of July and after last year’s similar stretch run, which included a 6-2 win at LA, Petke sees a lot of the same in this year’s streak.
“We don’t want to drop out of the position we’re in. We want to stay in the thick of things and they realize what that takes is the energy, the passion, the commitment and obviously the quality,” he said.