Just stepping on the field is (not) good enough. We have to put in the commitment. Right now we’re not good enough to have players take plays off. —RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando
SANDY — Sandwiched around Real Salt Lake’s shutout over the New York Red Bulls three weeks ago, Nick Rimando has had to pull the ball out of his own net eight teams — five against Los Angeles FC and then three last week at Toronto.
Cleaning things up defensively is the top priority for coach Mike Petke heading into Saturday’s visit from West-leading Vancouver (7:30 p.m., KMYU) at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Getting an attack going that ranks in the bottom five of MLS in shots is not Petke’s top priority.
“We have to sort out a lot of things behind the ball before we can get there. We know the talent that we have going forward, but again it comes back to organization, it comes back to being in the right positions in transition when we win the ball so we can play out,” said Petke.
Earlier in the week Petke talked about RSL’s mentality in the Toronto loss and how it needs improvement going forward. That’s particularly the case this weekend against the Whitecaps, who are tied for first in the Western Conference with 10 points.
Nick Rimando said RSL can’t take anything for granted.
“Just stepping on the field is (not) good enough. We have to put in the commitment. Right now we’re not good enough to have players take plays off. Obviously we have the talent, but the quality isn’t there. If we can bring the commitment like you saw in the Red Bull game, it wasn’t pretty, but we got the shutout and we got the win,” said Rimando.
“To step out there, the mentality has to be right. You’re going to give it your all, you’re going to play 90 minutes plus and commit yourself to the team, and once we have everybody on board like that the soccer will come out.”
It hasn’t been there yet, which is a surprise because many believed RSL would pick up where it left off last season. Instead, the team is off to a similarly slow start to the 2017 season.
That slow start led to the firing of Jeff Cassar and the hiring of Mike Petke, and Saturday’s match represents the one-year anniversary of Petke’s first match as Real Salt Lake coach. That match was also against Vancouver, the memorable 3-0 win in the snow.
There’s no snow in the forecast this time around, but rain is likely which could create fast field conditions like it did against New York.
That’s ideal for a Vancouver team that feasts on giveaways with its lethal transition attack.
“We just have to have a commitment out there and be organized. Obviously they have some big players, some special players and when they get the ball they go, go, go. We’ve got to make sure that if we do lose the ball that we’re committed to bet back and defend and getting a couple strong blocks back there,” said Rimando.
RSL must be keenly aware of forward Kei Kamara at all times. He’s scored in three of four games in his first season with Vancouver, the sixth MLS team he’s played for in his 12 MLS season.
“He’s a handful. He’s a big body up front, he challenges for everything, he works hard, he’s around the goal, he’s good with his feet, he’s got pace. He’s definitely someone we have to look and circle on the board,” said Rimando.
With just one goal in each of its first four games — two of those from the penalty spot — Real Salt Lake’s could be in line for a shake-up this weekend against Vancouver.