SALT LAKE CITY — Mike Petke didn't realize it, but while answering a question about playing an early afternoon game the Real Salt Lake coach proved how rare that situation is by the use of one simple word.
"Ask me that question again after tomorrow night’s game," he said, "and I'll give you my honest answer."
Though the club began the season with two 4 p.m. matches in March, they mostly play around 7 p.m. On Saturday, they'll kick off against Toronto FC at 1 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Petke adjusted the training schedule this week so his players would adapt better to the change. RSL practiced at 1 p.m. on Thursday and had a morning session Friday. He did that so players can adjust their meal and sleeping schedules to be at peak form six hours earlier than usual.
"It shouldn't be an issue," he said.
Petke admitted he has mixed emotions about the starting time.
"Yes and no," he said when asked if he likes it. "Yes, because it’s tough to sit around all day waiting for the moment. No, at this moment, because we haven’t had a 1 o’clock game this year."
There could also be rain in the forecast, but he's not too concerned about that, either. The ball will be quick and slick, which could create some interesting moments, though. Players will have to pay extra attention when they're judging balls that are skipping, he said.
"The weight of passes might be a little bit different," he said, "but guys have played in rain their whole lives."
Petke is hopeful the location of this early, potentially soggy game will be an advantage. However, RSL is only 2-2-0 at home this season compared to a stellar 11-2-4 last year. Portland beat them here two weeks ago, 2-1.
Real does come into this contest with some momentum, having won 3-2 at Colorado last weekend.
"It’s a very different dynamic at home than on the road. When teams come here a lot of their defending by design is deep and it’s crunched," he said. "That’s why ball movement is so important at home, transition is so important at home. Before they could get set, how can we get behind them? All things that we talk about and work on."Comment on this story
Petke believes RSL can turn its stadium back into the rowdy and impenetrable RIOT of old.
"Last year we were the best — or one of the two or three best — at home," he said. "Of course we want to get back to that. It’s still early days, but we need to get back to making this a fortress and a tough place to play."
On the injury front, midfielder Kyle Beckerman (hamstring) remains out but is close to returning and goalie Nick Rimando (knee) is available for action. Petke didn't divulge if the Wall of the Wasatch will play, though.