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RSL must respond to frustrating start or it will be left behind in crowded Western Conference

Published June 16, 2017 4:54 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated.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 • This feeling isn't lost on Tony Beltran.

It's one he's felt before. It's not new. Yet that doesn't make it any more comforting. This vibe that has been hovering around Real Salt Lake is there due to the magnitude of a situation that needs fixing — and soon.

"I think the locker room — the entire locker room — the club, the city, knows what's at stake here in the next month or so," Beltran said Thursday evening. "We're at a pivotal point in the season for ourselves. If we don't start putting points together, especially at home, we're going to get left behind very quickly.

"To be irrelevant in this league in the standings at this stage, it's not acceptable, and that's when people start losing jobs. I think everyone knows the tone of the situation and understands what needs to be done."

RSL (4-10-2) enters Saturday night's match against Minnesota United on the heels of three straight disastrous defensive performances. After giving up 11 goals in losses at Houston and Texas, RSL conceded four against USL franchise Sacramento Republic FC in a quick U.S. Open Cup exit that featured a mix of second-string players and Real Monarchs call-ins.

The official halfway point of the year kicks off Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium against an expansion franchise RSL must beat in order to begin its climb up the standings. Amid the ongoing change and frustration, Beltran said in order to ensure the locker room stays together and doesn't splinter apart it starts with every player holding one another accountable.

"We're all adults here and sometimes criticism's going to be constructive, sometimes it's going to be pretty blatant, so I think we all need to understand that we're professionals in this situation … the only way we're going to get out is together," he said. "So I think the tone of the locker room is we understand that and we understand that we need to believe in the group and if we continue to do that, then hopefully we get out of this together."

After the 6-2 drubbing at FC Dallas on June 3, RSL coach Mike Petke's postgame interview went viral in MLS circles. The straightforwardness of the situation surprised many. Nearly two weeks later, Petke was asked if he felt the time off after the trip in Texas helped clear the minds of players.

"You can't expect to wave a magic wand and make a statement in the paper and then they all go away and do the right thing and come back refreshed," he said. "If it was that easy, I'd be coaching at Barcelona."

During this ongoing rough patch, Petke has at times voiced that players are struggling to follow game-plan tactics and approaches. After the loss in Sacramento he said, "We talked about specifics, and it played out the way we said we don't want it to play out."

Nick Rimando said RSL must do a better job sticking to what Petke is preaching.

"You just have to go out there and work hard," he said. "I think Mike's telling us everything we need to know, it's about going out there and working hard and laying it out there on Saturday and whenever our games are, because like you said, the season's not getting any longer and we've got to catch up on these games. To do that is to win the home games and fight and give it all we have out there."

Jordan Allen, who recently returned in the Open Cup match after missing the last three months with quadriceps and hamstring injuries, said the joy of his return is taking a backseat to helping RSL pick itself off the floor.

"It's about the team and doing what I can to make sure I'm ready when my opportunity comes, helping guys that are starting now to make sure they're sharp when the time comes," he said, "because I care about this club a lot and the position we're in right now, it's hard to stomach."

-Chris Kamrani

Twitter: @chriskamrani




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