Real Salt Lake defender Danilo Acosta, the last man off the training pitch Wednesday afternoon, knows just how important it is to put in the work. Having started the last two games due to an injury to defensive mainstay Tony Beltran, Acosta is grateful for the opportunity head coach Mike Petke to show what he can do.
"Whenever he gives me the opportunity, I got to make the most of it,” said the 19-year old from Honduras, who came up through the Real Salt Lake-Arizona academy. “I tried to do everything I could in my power and then he gave me the opportunity again to do it against Colorado.”
“I’m happy with him getting this opportunity. He deserves it,” said Petke. “Players like that need to get experience and how do you get experience, not by playing four days a week in practice, but by getting on the field and contributing and learning from your mistakes. Danny fell in a fortunate situation for him, is that we had an injury, and I’m all about players taking advantage of those opportunities. Danny has done well so far and he needs to keep continuing to do well.”
Having been playing a part in consecutive RSL victories as a starter, Danilo keeps his eyes forward in his preparation for this week’s matchup with Atlanta, echoing his coach’s mantra of taking it one game at a time.
“It feels good, of course it does. That’s in the past, now we got to focus on Atlanta. It’s a brand new game and just got to keep going like that.”
Acosta isn’t the only young player on the team who has made his coach proud. After scoring last week’s game-winner in RSL’s 2-1 victory over Colorado, attacking midfielder and fellow youngster and academy graduate Brooks Lennon was the subject of Petke’s praises, who again emphasized the need to keep pushing.
“We’re very glad that Brooks got this goal, it was huge for us, and it was good for him and his confidence but at the end of the day it’s back to work and if he doesn’t show that he’s the best player in that position to play against Atlanta, he’s not going to play,” said Petke. “That goes for anybody.”
Petke’s attitude, which has clearly made its way to his successful young players, is derivative of his hard-nosed upbringing in the Eastern United States.
“We live in a world and I don’t want to get philosophical here, but we really do live in world in that the second, in sports or anything, the second that somebody does one thing they become something special and that’s a far cry from when I grew up is that it took 10, 12, 14 special things. But you adapt to society and that’s how it is now. For me as a coach and for us as an organization, we got to keep them level-headed,” said Petke.
The hard work put in by the young guns hasn’t escaped the attention of the team’s elder statesman, Kyle Beckerman.
“It’s great,” said Beckerman. “We always need new guys — young, old, middle — to step up. It’s been a good two weeks and we got to keep it going.”