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Sandy • Mike Petke, still soaked from a damp, frigid day on the training field, summoned reporters back to him after speaking for nearly six minutes Tuesday afternoon in the hallway of Rio Tinto Stadium.
Real Salt Lake's coach wanted to make something perfectly clear.
He'd read the stories and columns and seen the clips criticizing goalkeeper Nick Rimando for the two goals Atlanta United scored, capitalizing on mistakes RSL made playing out of the back in the 3-1 home loss Saturday night.
Petke said he's challenged RSL to continually sustain possession, no matter the circumstances, and keep the ball on the ground. It came back to bite RSL for two goals against Atlanta when Rimando played two passes into pressure.
"If it comes onto anybody's shoulders, it's mine, the two times out of the back," Petke said after telling reporters to turn their microphones back on. "It comes squarely on my shoulders, and I'm OK with that because if we're not pushing it, we're not trying, we're not going to get better. Obviously we have some things we need to clean up in those aspects, but it comes down to me forcing these guys to build out."
Rimando left in the second half of the loss with what Petke said Tuesday is a hamstring injury. The 37-year-old goalkeeper was undergoing tests Tuesday to determine the severity of the injury. As RSL preps for its first visit to Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night, it will be without its star goalkeeper.
Backup Matt VanOekel likely will get the nod. The start would be the second of 2017 for the 30-year-old, signed this offseason to be RSL's No. 2 goalkeeper behind Rimando.
"He knows what's expected of him," Petke said, "and we are not missing a beat with him in the goal."
VanOekel's first start of the season was a 0-0 draw at the New York Red Bulls on March 25. The 6-foot-4 shot-stopper knows he'll have to be ready to orchestrate a buildup out of the defensive third with the style Petke demands.
"I think I've settled in really well," VanOekel said. "I'm up to speed with the guys."
Empty bulletin board
Asked how he'd try to defend Sporting KC striker Dom Dwyer, Petke, a former center back, said the first task is not allowing the forward to gain an early mental edge.
"He's an antagonizer, and I say that in a good way, so there's no bulletin-board material," Petke said. "I really do. Those are the forwards that when I was a center back, I hated playing against. It's a player you hate playing against but would love on your team."
The 26-year-old has 54 career goals in 104 starts in Kansas City. Beyond Dwyer's capabilities, Petke said he's choosing not to pay much mind to the RSL-Sporting KC rivalry that has been burgeoning in recent seasons.
"If I need to put something up on the bulletin board for my team to get fired up, I'm not doing my job," Petke said. "I'm not big on that. Having said that, I don't think I've ever given a team bulletin-board material."
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Real Salt Lake at Sporting Kansas City
When • 6:30 p.m. MDT Saturday
Where • Sporting Park