SANDY, Utah — After hovering around the playoff line over the last two seasons, missing out on Audi MLS Cup Playoffs in 2017 and making it in 2018, Real Salt Lake head coach MIke Petke knows what he needs to see from his team to make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.
Despite a 1-0 win over Columbus Crew SC on Wednesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium, Petke wasn't too happy with his team.
“I know they can play a hell of a lot better,” RSL head coach Mike Petke said. “It was a great three points, great shutout, great grittiness to keep the shutout and get the result, but when we’re at our best it’s far from what we were tonight.
"We have found the form I’m looking for this year many times, but when we don’t have that form it gets ugly sometimes, but we found a way tonight. What I’m looking for is more consistency. It’s not we’re searching for it. These guys are capable. They’re capable of so much more.”
The battle for Western Conference playoff places figures to be a tight one, aside from LAFC, as RSL sit in a pack of seven teams within six points of each other. Those seven teams currently lie 2-8 in the West and doesn't include the Portland Timbers, who figure to get above the playoff line due to their home-heavy schedule in the second half. RSL will play one of those seven teams on Saturday when they head to San Jose to face the Earthquakes (10:30 pm ET | TV & streaming info).
“The last two years being here for me, we have waited a little bit too late and have had to grind out results the last week of the season to get into the playoffs,” RSL right back Brooks Lennon said. “We don’t want to do that this year. We want to be in the top of the table come playoff time. Grinding out results or playing well it doesn’t matter. We need to get three points no matter what.”
Consistently finding three points is in part thanks to the depth Lennon and the rest of the Salt Lake roster can provide down the stretch. Lennon is an example of that depth, as the 21-year-old earned just his third start in three months on Wednesday.
“We have better depth this year than we have the past two years, no matter who we rotate in everyone is going to give us their 100 percent and help us get three points,” Lennon said.