Jeffrey D. Allred,
Real Salt Lake midfielder Albert Rusnak (11) shoots against the Los Angeles FC in Sandy on Saturday, March 10, 2018. LAFC won 5-1.
The quality is there, we've just got to create more chances and then put them away. —RSL forward Luis Silva

HERRIMAN — Over the last 15 games of 2017, Real Salt Lake was one of the most explosive offensive teams in MLS. The 32 goals it scored in those final 15 games was nearly double the 17 goals it scored in the first 19 matches.

It finished the season with a league-best 548 shots and 187 shots on goal, and while those stats aren’t always predictors of success, they reveal just how quickly coach Mike Petke established a culture of attacking soccer at RSL.

Everything started to click a bit too late in 2017 though, as RSL narrowly missed the playoffs.

One of the primary talking points throughout the offseason and the preseason was with most of RSL’s attacking talent returning in 2018, would it allow the team to hit the ground running in 2018 and get off to a great start.

So far, the answer is no.

The sample size is small with just three games played, but a year after leading MLS with 16.1 shots per game — and 18.8 shots per game over the final three months — RSL ranks 16th in that category this season at 12 shots per game.

Even that number is a bit inflated as it recorded 21 shots in a 5-1 loss to Los Angeles FC in a game it threw countless numbers forward throughout the second half.

Against FC Dallas, it recorded nine shots, and two weeks ago in a 1-0 win over the New York Red Bulls, it recorded just six shots.

With so few opportunities created, it’s not surprising RSL ranks near the bottom of MLS with just three goals scored — with two of those coming on penalty kicks.

“We have to keep working hard. Things are not coming off right now. Maybe we’re a little rusty, we haven’t played together in a while. The goals are going to come, we’ve just got to be patient, we can’t get frustrated with each other, especially on the pitch,” said Luis Silva.

“The quality is there, we've just got to create more chances and then put them away.”

The club could get a shot of attacking confidence this Friday at Toronto FC as Albert Rusnak returns from the Slovakian National Team after scoring his first international goal.

The goal came last Thursday in the 42nd minute of Slovakia’s 2-1 win over the United Arab Emirates at a tournament in Thailand. Rusnak played the full 90 minutes in the match.

“He’s earned it. The way he’s played with us last year and even this year so far, his quality he has, and (Slovakia) not traveling to the World Cup, I think they are giving players a chance ahead of time right now that they think are the future, and Albert to me is certainly the future of that national team. I wish it wasn’t so far away that he has to travel when he goes, but it’s a credit to him and his work and how good he is,” said Petke.

Rusnak scored his first MLS goals on a penalty kick against New York two weeks ago, and with recent goals for both club and country, Petke hopes Rusnak’s confidence is sky high on Friday against defending MLS Cup champ Toronto.