I apologize to my owner, a lot of places in the world I’d either be fired right now or I’d resign. —Mike Petke
SANDY — For roughly the last 20 minutes of Real Salt Lake’s home opener on Saturday, Mike Petke just stood in the corner of his coaches box and stared out onto the field, shocked and embarrassed.
By the time the final whistle blew on RSL’s 5-1 loss to expansion Los Angeles FC, Petke quickly shook the hand of LAFC coach Bob Bradley and walked briskly off the Rio Tinto Stadium field.
It was the most goals conceded at home in franchise history, and the first time Real Salt Lake has lost a home opener.
Real Salt Lake head coach Mike Petke watches the game on Saturday. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
“I apologize to my owner, a lot of places in the world I’d either be fired right now or I’d resign. It’s embarrassing, and it starts from the top,” said Petke. “Apologize to the fans who came out here for this, at the end of the day it’s my job to get the team ready to play and put the effort in. That’s my job description, and I did not fulfill that today.”
Petke declined to get into the tactical breakdowns of what went so wrong, but believes it’s an anomaly and not “representative of this organization.”
“It was one of those days I guess. I feel terrible to say something like that, because it just seems dismissive. I’m not ready at this momentum to analyze this game. It’s that much of a shock to all of us,” said Petke.
LAFC picked apart Real Salt Lake most of the match, spoiling RSL’s sold-out home opener. Incredibly, it all happened after RSL scored first as Joao Plata opened the scoring in the 20th minute when he knocked in his own rebound on a penalty miss.
It went incredibly wrong after that, with LAFC building a 2-1 lead by halftime and then tacking on three more goals in the second half.
“It was horrendous today. If I’m one of the fans, I’m thinking about if I’m going to come to next week’s game or not cause it’s just not acceptable for a home opener to go this kind of way after having a great preseason and playing a lot of good games,” said midfielder Albert Rusnak.
Expansion LAFC has now won two straight road games, and in the process it snapped RSL’s eight game home unbeaten streak dating back to last season.
In the 20th minute, Plata’s initial PK was saved by Tyler Miller, but Plata quickly volleyed in the rebound for the 1-0 lead.
Despite conceding early, LAFC had consistently found space to exploit in RSL’s midfield and had made several dangerous runs in behind the defense. One of those runs in the sixth minute nearly led to an early goal, but Demar Phillips blocked an LAFC shot in front of goal.
In the 30th minute, Los Angeles eventually equalized as Diego Rossi slipped in behind RSL’s backline and hammered home a through ball from Marco Urena.
Three minutes later, LAFC went ahead 2-1 as Latif Blessing buried a shot from close range after a cross from Steven Beitashour. RSL believed Beitashour was offside after receiving the initial through ball, but the goal was never reviewed by Video Assistant Replay.
LAFC hit the post on chance to extend its lead in the 38th minute, but that insurance goal eventually came just two minutes into the second half as Benny Feilhaber finished off another Beitashour assist for the 3-1 lead.
“They were dynamic, they were fast up top; their movement was very good and cause us all sorts of trouble,” said Rusnak.
Any hope of RSL fighting back and salvaging a point was extinguished in the 81st minute when Rossi scored on a breakaway for the 4-1 lead.
The goal came 30 seconds after Jefferson Savarino sprayed a great chance on a half volley from about 10 yards out way over the cross bar.
Carlos Vela tacked on one more goal in the 86th minute for the visitors.
“I got it wrong somewhere to be honest with you, that’s why we’re going to go back starting tomorrow and we’re going to rethink certain things and move forward to the Red Bulls,” said Petke.
Real Salt Lake returns to action next Saturday when it hosts the New York Red Bulls. It will Petke’s first game coaching against the team that fired him following a successful 2014 season.