"Hopefully, moving forward we, as a staff, will be able to start putting into play more of how we want to play going forward," Petke said.
Minus Rusnák, Petke deployed 20-year-old Venezuelan Jefferson Savarino, signed last month on loan. It was Savarino's first start as the central playmaker after all of his previous starts and appearances came as a wide forward in RSL's 4-3-3 look. The position didn't miss a beat. Savarino routinely created chances for himself and others in the RSL attack.
"To be honest, it's a position that I have played before," Savarino said postgame through a translator. "Of course in my national team and in my previous team I always played that position as well. I felt very comfortable. I played as a midfielder as well as a 10. Again I felt comfortable, and I know how to play both."
Without even having to answer the question, Petke's postgame stream of consciousness jumped into how, when Rusnák returns from the Euro U-21 championships, RSL could perhaps feature both Savarino and Rusnák centrally going forward with the likes of Joao Plata and Brooks Lennon out wide on the wings.
"He did exactly what we hoped he would do," Petke said of Savarino. "[He was] so active, he is able to hold the ball, he shifts defenses just on his own by his movement and with his one-on-one abilities. He is excellent."
The return of RSL's four U.S. U-20 national team players made an immediate impact. Lennon, center back Justen Glad and outside back Danny Acosta all started in their first match back with RSL after helping the U.S. U-20s to the quarterfinal round of the U-20 World Cup in South Korea.
Glad's first game of the year again showcased how indispensable he is on the back line, not only in breaking up build-ups going forward, but his ability to split the midfield with passes out of the back.
"The heart and the fight was there [Saturday]," Glad said, "and when we have that and a group of guys who are willing to leave everything on the field we can beat any team in this league, it doesn't matter who it is."
Petke is satisfied with RSL's wave of young talent, but said more is needed.
"The choice is theirs for the future," he said. "They can either have 12, 15 more years playing professional soccer doing something they love or they could be the guy that after a couple of years they say, 'What happened to that kid who had all that promise playing in the World Cup and he was starting for Salt Lake a couple of times?' "
Playing with nearly a full deck of cards has Petke smiling a bit more.
How RSL manages to fix its ongoing road woes next weekend at San Jose is next on the to-do list.