This bye week, unlike the Gold Cup break, is about recuperating for Real Salt Lake.
RSL will use its break in play to recover after two consecutive trips back east followed by two home games last week.
“It’s about not dropping off physically but not overly exerting them,” RSL coach Mike Petke said, “about keeping them mentally focused but getting them rest physically and mentally. And then we’ll obviously work on the things we need to work on leading into the Vancouver game. Tactics started today, very subtle tactics, and all next week it’ll be obviously how we’re going to approach Vancouver. But right now it‘s just keeping them sharp.”
RSL has two weeks between Saturday’s 4-1 win against Colorado and its Sept. 9 match at Vancouver. The bye coincides with the upcoming 2018 World Cup qualifiers, but MLS is not taking a full break for international play.
Four MLS matches are scheduled between the U.S.’s two World Cup qualifiers Friday and Tuesday. Most notably for RSL, FC Dallas (9-7-9, 36 points), which is just one point ahead of RSL at seventh in the Western Conference standings, plays the New York Red Bulls on Saturday.
“We have these breaks because we’ve played more games than everybody else,” Petke said, “which puts us outside watching results, which you don’t want to do. But from a physical rest, mental rest [standpoint], yes, I think it‘s paid dividends.”
It also helps that RSL doesn’t have to play this week with goalkeeper Nick Rimando (U.S.), midfielder Albert Rusnák (Slovakia) and Jefferson Savarino (Venezuela) away on international duty.
World Cup qualifiers
A record 89 MLS players, including RSL’s three, have received the call from their national teams for September international play, most of which are competing in 2018 World Cup qualifying matches. Of those players, 18 will represent the United States, and 13 will join the Canadian side.
David Villa’s return to the Spanish national team, however, was perhaps the most notable development for MLS. NYCFC’s 35-year-old forward has not represented Spain since 2014, despite being the national team’s all-time leading scorer with 59 goals.
“It’s not just the goals,” said RSL defender Chris Wingert, who played with Villa at NYCFC in 2015. “If you watch the games lately, he’s working his tail off from what I can see. I can tell you he approached every practice that way. … So it‘s pretty cool to see that, that they have the respect for MLS like they do, and I’m hoping he gets in there and bangs a couple for Spain. And you never know, right? Maybe he’s in the mix next year.”
MLS team of the week
In response to RSL’s two blowout wins last week, three Real Salt Lake players were named to MLSsoccer.com’s MLS Team of the Week, the most from RSL all season.
Luis Silva, Rusnák and Justen Glad all claimed spots in the starting XI. Silva scored three goals in RSL’s 4-0 win against San Jose and 4-1 victory over Colorado combined. Rusnák tallied two goals and three assists.
Joao Plata also was recognized on the Team of the Week’s bench, and Petke was named coach of the week.