When it comes to playing style, Real Salt Lake coach Mike Petke isn’t a fan of parking the bus.
“I thought it was ugly and boring the way they killed the game staying back like that,” he said of Houston after a scoreless draw against the Dynamo last week. “But they did what they had to do for a point.”
RSL (7-12-5, 26 points) won’t be playing anything like that on its upcoming road trip to D.C. and Montreal. Between Petke’s soccer philosophy and RSL’s position six points behind Vancouver in the race for the last playoff spot, the team will be looking to score.
“I want to be an attacking team with balance defensively,” Petke said, “and I think that last game and the last couple games they’ve done that phenomenally.”
RSL’s schedule for the rest of the month provides it with its best chance to quickly make up ground in the playoff race.
First, RSL takes on a last-place D.C. United squad (5-14-4, 19 points) Saturday in what will be Real Salt Lake’s last trip to RFK Stadium — United moves into a new stadium next season. D.C. has been shutout at home a league-high six times this season.
“They have a bit of two teams,” midfielder Kyle Beckerman said. “… They’ve lost some bad games, which we have as well, or [there are] some games where they’ve won and they’ve looked well. So hopefully we can go and play our best and make them look like the team that’s losing the games instead of the team that’s looking good.”
Next week, RSL will head to Montreal. The Impact (7-8-6, 27 points) are scheduled to play a strong Chicago Fire team three days before their match against RSL.
After the two-game road trip, RSL returns home for matches against Western Conference opponents San Jose (99-5, 32 points) and Colorado (6-12-3, 21 points).
The Earthquakes won’t be particularly easy competition, but facing them provides RSL an opportunity to shrink the gap between it and the current sixth-place team in the West.
Since firing head coach Dominic Kinnear and replacing him with Chris Leitch on June 25, San Jose has gone 3-3 in league play and winless on the road.
Then there’s Colorado, which is on a four-match winless streak. RSL beat the Rapids 2-1 in the teams’ first meeting this season.
RSL’s next four matches will carry it through August. Real Salt Lake has just 10 games left in the regular season. There’s no time for it to sit deep and look for a draw on the road.
“The points are there to be taken,” midfielder Albert Rusnák said. “And if you don’t take them like we did in three games at home in a row, then you’ve got to get the points on the road.”
With three consecutive draws at Rio Tinto Stadium in its last homestand, RSL let six of nine possible points slip through its fingers.
“We’re right in the thick of it with 30 points left to grab,” Petke said. “There’s nobody worrying. There’s nobody panicking.”
Real Salt Lake at D.C. United
At Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, Washington, D.C.
Kickoff » 5:00 p.m. MDT
TV » KMYU
Radio » 700 AM
Records » RSL 7-12-5, DC 5-14-4
Last meeting » 1-1 draw (July 1, 2016 at Rio Tinto Stadium)
About DC United » D.C.United is 3-5-4 at home and has been shut out in RFK Stadium 6 times this year. ... D.C. signed U.S. International Paul Arriola, Hungarian International Zoltán Stieber, and ex-U.S. Youth International Russell Canouse this week. ... Lloyd Sam is suspended for the match due to a red card. … Rob Vincent (knee), Ian Harkes (ankle) and Patrick Nyarko (concussion) are out with injuries.
About RSL » Coach Mike Petke played for D.C. United from 2003 to 2005 and won an MLS Cup with them. ... RSL is on a five-match unbeaten streak in two away and three home games. … Real Salt Lake has outscored its opponents 13-6 in its pas tfive matches. … RSL’s Jordan Allen, Omar Holness and Chad Barrett remain out (knee surgeries). ... Matt Van Oekel (ankle) and Demar Phillips (hamstring) will be sidelined with injuries