I expect the same mentality that we had in the last two away games. I know the results didn’t go our way but the attitude’s been great, they’ve really adapted to large chunks of the game plan and played very well. —RSL coach Mike Petke
SANDY — D.C. United finished dead last in MLS last season and is trending that way again in 2018 as it’s tied for the fewest points in MLS.
When Real Salt Lake hosts D.C. United this Saturday (7 p.m., KMYU) at Rio Tinto Stadium, coach Mike Petke said D.C. United’s struggles are irrelevant. He expects an honest, scrappy effort from the visitors who he said is a hard-working bunch regardless of their record.
That shouldn’t matter. Real Salt Lake has legitimate playoff aspirations this season and when the worst team in MLS comes to town three points are a must. That’s amplified because of RSL’s own road struggles.
Real Salt Lake has lost four straight road games by multiple goals, including recent back-to-back losses at Vancouver and Orlando. With the club’s inability to pick up points away from home, that puts even more pressure on maximizing three points at home — where RSL has won three straight.
Ironically enough, Petke hopes to see his players build on the momentum generated with the recent performances at Vancouver and Orlando.
“I expect the same mentality that we had in the last two away games. I know the results didn’t go our way but the attitude’s been great, they’ve really adapted to large chunks of the game plan and played very well,” said Petke.
RSL hasn’t been able to finish games off on the road though, something it’s done at home this season. That could’ve all been different in Orlando. Petke’s squad scored first on a Corey Baird goal and then hit the post twice after that while controlling the game.
Baird hit one of those posts which could’ve put RSL ahead 2-0, but Petke said it’s important the young player keeps his head up and keeps working.
“Corey did so much for us in that game as far as keeping the center backs honest and stretching them a little bit and getting behind the amount of times,” said Petke.
“In a game like that when the atmosphere is unbelievable against a very good opponent for him to put a goal away and then he had the opportunity to put maybe two more, I look at the bright side that he put himself in those positions, and perhaps technique and perhaps putting those away will come with time and with more training.”
As Luis Silva nears a return to full strength, Baird is going to get more competition for playing time in the coming weeks.
RSL’s backline is nearing full strength as well, with Marcelo Silva potentially making a returning to the starting line-up on Saturday.
Nick Rimando heads into Saturday’s game sitting on 199 career victories, but he isn’t worried about milestones ahead of the game.
“When 200 comes we can celebrate it then, but right now I think we’re focused on D.C. United and getting that three points,” said Rimando.
Of Rimando’s 199 career wins, 41 came during his five years with D.C. United from 2002 to 2006. He’s spent the past 12 season with Real Salt Lake.