Sandy • The adages are all over sports.
“It’s only one game.” “It’s early in the season.” “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
The same can be said in regards to Real Salt Lake, which just last week opened the 2019 season with a draw against Houston on the road. But first game only represents a minuscule sample size.
Nevertheless, coaches and players say there is plenty to be gleaned from just one game.
“The good things that happen reassure,” coach Mike Petke said Thursday after training. “The bad things — it’s not an excuse, but it falls into that it’s the first game of 34. It’s the first meaningful, full game at full pace in a stadium in front of a crowd. So it just reassures things you have to work on as well.”
Of course, one game does not decide playoff seeding or win an MLS Cup. But it can point to the beginnings of how a team will attack, defend and mesh together. An example of that was the four players RSL used in the front of the field last week against the Dynamo.
Another example: the midfield pairing of Kyle Beckerman and newcomer Everton Luiz. The two picked up a yellow card apiece against Houston, and Petke said he liked the way they played off each other.
“Kyle now has somebody next to him, when they play together, that likes to hit people as much as Kyle does,” Petke said. “That’s a good thing to have in that position.”
Sebastian Saucedo said the first game of the season gives the team an opportunity to start building its identity and habits in order to end up a good team when its time to make a playoff push. Beckerman said getting to that point is a constant work in progress.
“Every game is a reset button,” Beckerman said. “It’s a quarter review each week. So this week we’ll see how good we’re doing, and then the next week, same thing.”
Last week’s draw wasn’t without its miscues. A miscommunication led to RSL conceding a goal — the only shot on target for the Dynamo — and, although they were one man up in the final 10 minutes, Real came away feeling like it was not aggressive enough despite being on the road.
While Petke acknowledged that mistakes are “discouraging” regardless of where a team is in a season, he also said they are not a cause for concern — yet.
“It doesn’t mean the end of the world, doesn’t mean the end of your season, doesn’t mean that things aren’t going to improve,” Petke said. “It just tells you you have now 33 more games to improve those things.”
RSL’s players and coaches have said repeatedly that they wants to improve upon what was accomplished last season. Saturday’s home opener against the Vancouver Whitecaps gives RSL a chance to do so in more ways than one.
RSL lost 5-1 to LAFC in the 2018 home opener. It was one of only two four-goal losses Real suffered all of last season. Beckerman said the team wants to avoid a result like that on Saturday.
“I know a lot of guys remember last year and we definitely don’t want a repeat of that,” Beckerman said.
Now that the first real test is out of the way for RSL, the team is looking to move forward.
“As long as there is a good blueprint and there’s good key moments in that game,” Petke said, “you build off of it.”
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS AT REAL SALT LAKE
At Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah
Kickoff » Saturday, 4 p.m.
TV » KMYU
Radio » 700 AM
Records » RSL 0-0-1, Vancouver 0-1-0
Last meeting » Vancouver 2, RSL 0 (April 27, 2018)
About the Whitecaps » Michael Baldisimo, Jasser Khmiri and Brett Levis are out due to injury, and Russell Teibert is questionable. … They acquired 15 new players and let go of 21 going into 2019. … Marc dos Santos is in his first year as head coach. … They’ve won nine games all-time against RSL.
About RSL » Justen Glad will be out 4-6 weeks with a broken toe … They’re looking to win their first home opener since 2015 (one draw, two losses). … It will be the last MLS home opener for Nick Rimando, who announced he will retire at the end of the season. … They’ve won six total home games against Vancouver, scoring 15 goals and allowing only six.