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Real Salt Lake coach Mike Petke, finally, has options — and that’s a good thing

First Published      Last Updated Jun 18 2017 08:13 pm


Real Salt Lake » As roster improves, so do options of coach Petke.

Sandy • Mike Petke has options. Finally.

Three months into his tenure as Real Salt Lake's head coach, the unguarded, outspoken Petke now has what most coaches deal with on a weekly basis: A near-full roster that not only breeds competition and weeds out who won't be on a game-day roster but provides game-changing alternatives every weekend.

RSL's 1-0 win over Minnesota United on Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium showed what a difference that could mean going forward.

Even without its most complete attacking player in midfielder Albert Rusnák — gone with the Slovakian youth national team at the Euro U-21 championship — Petke's replacements and substitutes changed the game. That's something he hasn't been able to say since taking over a team riddled with injuries since the start of the season.




"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.

ckamrani@sltrib.com

Twitter: @chriskamrani

 

AT A GLANCE

MLS standings

EAST W L T Pts GF GA

Toronto FC 9 2 5 32 28 15

Chicago 9 3 4 31 27 17

New York City FC 8 5 3 27 29 20

Orlando City 7 5 4 25 19 21

New York 7 7 2 23 17 21

Columbus 7 9 1 22 25 29

Atlanta United FC 6 6 3 21 31 23

New England 5 6 5 20 27 23

Montreal 4 4 6 18 23 22

Philadelphia 4 7 4 16 20 20

D.C. United 4 8 3 15 10 23

WEST W L T Pts GF GA

Sporting Kansas City 7 4 6 27 20 11

FC Dallas 6 3 6 24 22 14

Houston 7 6 3 24 29 24

Portland 7 6 3 24 27 23

Vancouver 6 6 2 20 19 19

San Jose 5 6 5 20 16 20

Los Angeles 5 5 4 19 21 21

Seattle 5 7 4 19 19 24

Real Salt Lake 5 10 2 17 16 35

Colorado 5 8 1 16 14 19

Minnesota United 4 9 2 14 19 34

Saturday’s games

New York City FC 2, Seattle 1

Atlanta United FC 3, Columbus 1

Chicago 2, New England 1

Montreal 3, Orlando City 3, tie

Toronto FC 2, D.C. United 0

Sporting Kansas City 0, San Jose 0, tie

Colorado 2, Portland 1

FC Dallas 1, Vancouver 1, tie

Real Salt Lake 1, Minnesota United 0

Houston 2, Los Angeles 2, tie

Sunday’s game

New York 2, Philadelphia 0


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