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Mike Petke on RSL red cards: ‘I want my guys to stand up for themselves’

Real Salt Lake will try to shake a recent negative trend in its matches when it travels to face the Seattle Sounders at 10 p.m. ET Saturday.

Five games into the 2019 Major League Soccer season, the club already has four red cards, which all came in the last three matches. When asked about the excessive number of sendoffs after RSL’s most-recent match, a 4-2 home loss against FC Dallas that included a 17th-minute red card to Damir Kreilach, coach Mike Petke said:

“I want my guys to fight, I want my guys to stand up for themselves. I want my guys to compete. Do I think all four red cards were justified? Do you think they were? Honestly? Be honest with me. Maybe you do. … Do I wish we didn’t have four red cards? Absolutely.”

Petke’s planned course of action for addressing red cards is plain:

“Don’t get red cards, simple as that. How do you discuss that? I’ve played, there is passion that goes into it. I’ve said it for 20 years, players aren’t robots. It’s not a remote control game, I wish it was. Maybe I would have one of my assistant coaches sit up stairs with a remote control. Any time he would see an aggravation goal from a player or passion goal from a player, with someone standing over them and yelling at them you could press the X button on the controller, you know it’s the calming button. We don’t have that! We are humans. Do I think Damir meant to get up and headbutt him? No, not at all. For anyone that knows Damir, they know he is the calmest guy on my team. Do I think he got up and headbutted him? No, I don’t, that is just my opinion.”

Kreilach’s red card Sunday came when he stood up after going to the ground for a tackle and seemed to bump chests with Dallas midfielder Carlos Gruezo. Gruezo fell and referee Baldomero Toledo sent him Kreilach off with a straight red card. 

Kreilach’s body language appeared to be retaliation for a step Gruezo took while the RSL midfielder was laying on the ground.

RSL’s first two red cards were charged during a 5-0 loss to D.C. United March 16. Jefferson Savarino was on the receiving end of one during stoppage time of the first half. Then RSL went down to nine men in the 67th minute, when the referee showed Marcello Silva a red card.

The third red card came late in RSL’s 2-0 loss against LAFC on March 23. Justin Portillo was sent off in the 84th minute, and then LAFC defender Walker Zimmerman delivered a brace in the second minute of stoppage time.

Mar 30, 2019; Sandy, UT, USA; Referee Baldomero Toledo tells Real Salt Lake midfielder Damir Kreilach (8) to leave the playing field after showing Kreilach a red card during the first half against the FC Dallas at Rio Tinto Stadium. (Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports)

While it’s been a frustrating season thus far for RSL, the club is not at the bottom of the Western Conference table. With four points, RSL is in front of Colorado, Portland, Vancouver and San Jose. 

Things won’t be easier for RSL anytime soon, though, when the team faces Seattle (4-3-0, 10 points), which owns one of the hottest starts to the MLS season and is second in the West behind LAFC. It would be tough to win in Seattle with 11 men, let alone 10. 

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