Mike Petke says RSL, Vancouver have changed greatly since his snowy debut

Real Salt Lake's Joao Plata, left, collides with Vancouver Whitecaps' Tim Parker, center, and Jordan Harvey during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)

Vancouver, B.C. • The last time Mike Petke went up against Vancouver, the snow blanketed Rio Tinto Stadium and refused to let up for his Real Salt Lake coaching debut.

Bundled in his coat with the collar popped, Petke led his new team to a 3-0 victory.

“The guys had an incredible response to the change in the coaching,” Petke said at training this week. “But that was, how many months ago? So it’s completely [different] circumstances now.”

Five months later, RSL met Vancouver at BC Place Saturday in their mutual quest for a playoff spot. The venue was different, the weather was different, and when it came down to it, Petke described the two teams as completely changed, too.

The elation from back-to-back victories in Petke’s first two matches at the helm quickly faded into exasperation when RSL lost the next four straight. Vancouver, too, struggled with a 1-2-1 record to start the season.

But by mid-June, Vancouver had scored seven goals off of set pieces to rise to the top of the league, tied with Houston. The Whitecaps entered Saturday’s match on a three-match winnings streak.

“They’re a team that’s very dangerous,” Petke said. “They lull you to sleep at times, and they’re fine with that. They get back in such great shape and deep, giving you nothing, and then they’re explosive on the counterattack.”

RSL, on the other hand, has found success in possession and combination play. Real Salt Lake entered play Saturday undefeated in eight of its past nine matches.

There were some things, however, that RSL could take for granted in Vancouver.

“Their team takes the personality of their coach,” captain Kyle Beckerman said, “and so Carl Robinson was a fighter and he was a ‘work, dig in, roll your sleeves up’ type player so we know their team’s going to have that characteristic, and us as well.”

The mentality in that first game was one thing Danilo Acosta said the team could take from the April bout in the snow. Acosta will not be on the field due to a red card he received in RSL’s last game.

“Even though we were tied 0-0 at half, we just kept going,” Acosta said. “We knew it was coming and all that. And then as soon as we scored the first goal, we just went after them.”

Starting lineup

RSL striker Yura Movsisyan made his first start since July 4. The designated player has subbed on in five of RSL’s past six matches.Center back Marcelo Silva (hamstring) returned to practice this week but started the match on the bench. David Horst yet again took his place on the back line.

One step closer

Chad Barrett was cleared Wednesday to run on the field after his six-month MRI. Barrett has been out since undergoing knee surgery on March 31.