This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Sandy • Mike Petke once again circled back to the line he's used since the day he was hired as Real Salt Lake's head coach four weeks ago.
It's just that this time, he was able to use it after a loss. The reminder, Petke warned, is that RSL isn't where it needs to be. Not yet. And might not be for some time.
He did his very best to temper expectations after the back-to-back wins in his first two matches on the sideline, but still voiced that one game, one win, doesn't do much for RSL in the long-view. It's about the further-out view, the one out of sight still, that matters.
So after RSL lost 3-1 at home to an impressive Atlanta United expansion team Saturday night, Petke sat in the RSL media room inside Rio Tinto Stadium and got back to his reminder.
"I told you guys, it doesn't matter if we won or lost, it's a building process," he said. "This does nothing to put a kink in what we are trying to do. It is the same as if we won 3-1 tonight. It doesn't change anything with how we are proceeding going forward."
The message from Petke remains clear: RSL has work to do. The two wins in a row weren't an aberration as much as a couple of steps in the right direction. The loss to Atlanta was proof that there is still a ways to go in the ongoing transition under Petke. RSL, now 2-4-2, has lost two games at home in the first two months of the year.
Already more than the entirety of the 2016 season.
More frustrating to get topped at home?
"Oh, hell yeah," RSL forward Yura Movsisyan said. "It's terrible, because this is a place that not many people can come and play. This is a city that not many people want to be in and playing and it just sucks when you lose at it. It hurts even more."
The loss to Atlanta showed the weaknesses of RSL in its current state. The injuries continue to mount as goalkeeper Nick Rimando (leg) and defender Chris Wingert (head) were subbed off in the second half, so if you're wondering who is ready for next week's rivalry match at Sporting Kansas City, best get in line.
In the center of the field, RSL was not quick or sharp enough with the ball, which allowed Atlanta to pressure, and do so successfully. In the attack, the final ball was not there most of the night. If not for a memorable run from left back Demar Phillips, RSL might've been shut out against the MLS newbies.
"Our off-ball movement was really not there," Petke said. "Our ability to make a play individually, being a little creative, being a little daring was not there at all. And then all of a sudden someone like Demar dribbles around 4 or 5 guys from our defensive half and it's like, 'Well, OK, where was that?'"
The revamp under Petke will take time. He's preached it in his first month on the job. Three points can, at times, mask some deficiencies. Perhaps that was the case in the wins over Vancouver and Colorado the last two weeks. New attacking midfielder Albert Rusnák did not shy away from showcasing his disappointment, despite scoring his second goal of 2017.
"It seems that we need to be a couple goals down to start actually playing," he said.