HERRIMAN — The digits on the scoreboard won't be the only number that Real Salt Lake coach Mike Petke will be concerned about this Saturday when his team travels to take on the Seattle Sounders.
Getting a positive result on the road is his main priority, of course.
"I want to win every time," Petke said after Tuesday's practice. "We all want to win."
The RSL coach also wants to finish a match with the right amount of guys on the soccer field. That hasn't been the case the past three games. RSL players have been sent to the showers early in three consecutive outings after receiving red cards. Forwards Justin Portillo and Jefferson Savarino have also received red cards early this season.
"We have to finish a game with 11 players," Petke said. "Then again, I don't want to put too much emphasis because then players aren’t going in hard to tackle when they need to because they’re afraid they're going to get thrown out. For me, it’s just let's keep our heads, let's play hard, and let’s finish with 11 players."
Damir Kreilach was the most recent RSL player to be ejected, and his absence proved to haunt Real in a 4-2 loss to FC Dallas at Rio Tinto Stadium. The team had to play for 70 minutes with only 10 men.
Petke was careful with his words when talking about Kreilach's penalty and referee Baldomero Toledo's decision to pull a red card out of his back pocket. He still doesn't believe there was malicious intent behind Kreilach's decision to jump up quickly after being stomped on by Carlos Gruezo while on the ground, and put his face in near proximity to Gruezo's.
"I'm not going to get roped in this year to criticizing and getting fined," Petke said. "I think it's a tough job that they (referees) have. I thought it made it easier with VAR (replay) to be able to look back at things or perhaps it's not. I'm not up in the booth. … Every week in the MLS players go head-to-head a little bit."
Petke defended his players as well, saying that he doesn't believe any of the red cards were intentional.
RSL successfully petitioned the United Soccer League to allow Kreilach to play down with the Real Monarchs during his one-game suspension this week.
"We just got word that Dami can play," Petke said. "They (USL officials) didn't think that was a dangerous foul."
Striker Corey Baird, back with the team after training with the national team, said the red-card situation is "definitely a concern" for their 1-3-1 club.Comment on this story
"It’s something we’ve addressed as a team where that's something we’ve got to solve," Baird said. "I think it's something where we put ourselves in holes, but at the same time I think Damir knows his was a mistake. Savo’s was kind of a fluke accident. Portillo’s, I don't even think it was a foul. I think they’re all kind of fluky red cards where they’re solvable issues and I think we know that."
This much is clear: RSL knows it's a better team with 11 guys instead of 10.
"It’s been tough just because of all the red cards, so we haven’t been able to play with the 11 and how we want to," said RSL defender Justen Glad, who's nearing his return after an injury. "But it’s cool to see how we adapt when we do go down. We get into our block and we defend with everything we have.
"Hopefully, once we have a full 11 we can put a game together and get some results."