Apr 7, 2018; Sandy, UT, USA; Vancouver Whitecaps defender Efrain Juarez (6) and Real Salt Lake forward Corey Baird (27) play a ball from a throw in during the first half at Rio Tinto Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake (2-2-1, 7 points) entered the pitch Saturday with a sense of urgency, eager to grab points after an up-and-down start to the 2018 season. After 90 minutes, RSL earned its second win of the season at home 2-1 over the Vancouver Whitecaps (3-2-1, 10 points).
But head coach Mike Petke still doesn’t like the way his squad is playing.
After a poor performance last week during a 3-1 loss to Toronto FC, Petke wasn’t too elaborative about how he felt, just that he was embarrassed. He was more talkative following Saturday’s performance because a win is a win, but he doesn’t like how the first stretch of games have panned out.
“If I’m being very honest in assessing the team five games in, I don’t like the way we’re playing with the ball and I don’t think a lot of the players do, and it’s not coming down to finger pointing for me or the players. It’s just kind of like, what’s going on here?” Petke said. “When did we stop playing? When did we stop having ideas?”
Real Salt Lake, playing in the comfort of Rio Tinto Stadium, looked to have a steady handle on things throughout the entirety of the first half, but the scoreboard failed to show that and injuries plagued RSL. Demar Phillips went out with an injury in 13th minute and Marcelo Silva left the game in the 41st minute.
With the unusual amount of delays, injuries and substitutions in the first half, an extra five minutes was added — that’s exactly what RSL needed to make its mark on the game.
In the fourth minute of extra time, Luis Silva found himself in the box and made a complete 360-degree turn with the ball in his possession to avoid a defender. Then with his left foot, he drilled a goal to give RSL a 1-0 lead.
“If I have the opportunity I’m going to shoot, unfortunately in Toronto I had nothing,” Silva said. “We did a lot running and sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn’t, but today was one of those days where moving out the ball creates that space and I had three chances [and] I put one away.”
As things became more chippy in the second half — RSL finished with 15 fouls and Vancouver finished with 11 — Silva said aggressiveness is just something the team knows it has to deal with from time to time.
“Unfortunately we don’t get the calls we deserve sometimes, but that’s out of my control and we just got to keep playing,” Silva said.
A second goal from the left foot of Jefferson Savarino in the 88th minute essentially sealed the win for the home squad. While at the time it seemed like just icing on the cake, it awarded RSL its three points since Vancouver midfielder Brek Shea sent a shot past Nick Rimando in the 92nd minute. Vancouver’s efforts were a little too late.
Heavy rain didn’t play as much of a factor as some worried, and the skies cleared just enough to make the match somewhat bearable for the announced 16,015 fans in attendance.
As Real Salt Lake gears up for a road match Wednesday against New York City FC at 5 p.m. MT, Petke hopes his team can start playing the way he knows they can.
“When we’re clicking, our front four especially, we’re a pretty damn fun team to watch,” Petke said. “But it’s been few and far between this year so far, so we’re looking to get back to the way we know how to play.”