It’s difficult to score goals when you give up a goal after five minutes, and if that keeps happening, every time the other team scores they get a lift in confidence and we go down. —Albert Rusnak, RSL midfielder
SANDY — Despite RSL's dropping its fourth straight game for the first time since late in the 2011 season, coach Mike Petke said nobody is hitting the panic button.
“The guys understand more and more every day what I expect of them, and what sort of my vision is as far as playing, and we’re going to get there. I’m confident, and so are they,” said coach Mike Petke.
If they do get it figured out, history doesn’t look too kindly on the predicament.
Over the past four seasons, there have been 24 MLS teams who’ve endured a four-game losing skid over the course of a season, but only nine recovered to make the playoffs.
Real Salt Lake has lost consecutive games to Atlanta, Kansas City, FC Dallas and New England in the past month and has been outscored 13-1 over that stretch. It’s now conceded 22 points this season, second only to expansion club Minnesota.
Heading into Wednesday’s match against visiting New York City FC (KMYU, 7 p.m.), it’s imperative that RSL cleans things up defensively to have any hope of a result — especially early in the game.
In those four losses, Atlanta scored first in the ninth minute, Kansas City scored in the 17th, Dallas scored in the third and New England in the fourth.
“It’s difficult to score goals when you give up a goal after five minutes, and if that keeps happening, every time the other team scores they get a lift in confidence and we go down,” said RSL midfielder Albert Rusnak.
“We keep talking about we’re not scoring enough goals, but if you let three in in the first half, or four, it’s always going to be difficult to score goals. So we as a team got to work it out to not concede the goals so early, and sometimes come in at halftime at 0-0 and then pick up the game in the second half.”
RSL has actually been decent defensively after giving up the first goal lately. Excluding last weekend’s 4-0 loss at New England when a reserve-heavy lineup allowed four goals in the first half, in the previous three losses the club only trailed 1-0 at the half. It’s the early second half goals that have been daggers.
“Everybody here has gone through something like this in their life, whether it be with a youth team when they were growing up, a high school team, college or pro team. Everybody has been through this, it’s about how you bounce back. It’s about the next match,” said Petke.
That next match includes a visit from New York City FC and reigning MLS MVP David Villa.
New York sits on 17 points through 10 matches this season, and it strolls into Rio Tinto Stadium on a three-game unbeaten streak with wins over Columbus and Atlanta and a draw last weekend at FC Dallas.
New signee Jefferson Savarino, 20, could make his Rio Tinto Stadium debut on Wednesday. He was recently acquired on loan from Zulia in Venezuela, and he looked sharp in his 29 minutes as a second-half substitute in last week’s loss at New England.
Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando might also back in the lineup for RSL after the veterans missed the last three games with injury.
“(Beckerman) along with the other veteran guys need to put a stamp on the game, physically, playing wise, mentally, verbally, a lot of communication tomorrow night,” said Petke. “At this point it’s rolling the sleeves up and going to work.”
After Wednesday, Real Salt Lake has another quick turnaround with a Saturday afternoon game at Seattle.