Real Salt Lake is the most penalized team in MLS, and that makes it hard to evaluate them

Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune Seattle Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan (7) battles Real Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman (5) as Real Salt Lake hosts the Seattle Sounders at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, Saturday, June 2, 2018.

Herriman • By now, it’s no secret: Real Salt Lake has no problems getting physical.

After all, the club does employ a few bona fide bruisers. Midfielder Kyle Beckerman is the all-time Major League Soccer leader in both fouls committed (713) and yellow cards (113). Coach Mike Petke, who played 13 years in the league, is tied for fourth all-time in yellows with 70.

The early part of this 2019 season has been no different. RSL is the most penalized team in MLS. It ranks first in yellow cards (15) and red cards (4), and fifth in fouls committed (60). The teams with the next-highest number of yellows are Los Angeles Football Club and the New England Revolution, which both have 12. The Colorado Rapids have committed a league-high (78) fouls and have three reds.

Everton Luiz, in his first year in MLS, has already amassed three yellow cards in five games. He has 110 yellows in his soccer career across all matches, per soccerway.com. Even Sebastian Saucedo has gotten in the mix this year. He already has three yellow cards after earning only one all last season.

Add it all up, and Real seems to be putting itself in difficult positions. But it’s the red cards that are hurting them most. In the last three games, the team has finished with less than 11 players on the field due to red cards, and lost all three of those games. In that span, four players have been suspended in subsequent games.

When RSL has had its full complement of players, the results on the field have been largely positive. But a season that started with promising play has turned into one in which RSL has only four points and sits eighth in the Western Conference standings.

"It’s been tough just because of all the red cards, so we haven’t been able to play with the full 11 and how we want to," defender Justen Glad said. "But it’s cool to see how we adapt when we do go down. We get on our block and we defend with everything we have. So hopefully, once we have a full 11, we can put a game together and get some results.”

The rash of red card ejections has made it somewhat difficult to evaluate how good RSL is and can be moving forward. Keeper Nick Rimando looks to the first two games of the season, which tell him what Real is capable of, he said.

“I see what we have out here on the training grounds and we have a good team,” Rimando said. “We just have to go out there and work hard for each other and keep 11 on the field and give us the best opportunity to win.”

Coach Mike Petke said Friday that with the season only five games deep, evaluating the team is a multi-pronged, daily exercise. The team has not dealt well with less than 11 players on the field, he said, making the evaluation process “somewhat difficult.”

He added: “But then you just look at different things to evaluate them on."

After the game against FC Dallas, Nedum Onuoha said he wasn’t too worried about the team’s red cards because he feels many of them we not warranted. Corey Baird echoed that sentiment this week when he called all the reds “kind of flukey.”

But Baird suggested that RSL is looking at the red card situation seriously.

“It’s definitely a concern,” he said. “It is something we’ve addressed as a team where that’s something that we have to solve and I think it’s something where we put ourselves in holes.”

With another difficult road game against the Seattle Sounders coming up Saturday, midfielder Albert Runsák made it clear how paramount it will be to have RSL’s full squad available.

“It’s tough to play at least a man down for almost every game that we played,” Runsák said. “So it will be extremely important to keep 11 guys on the field for us coming up this game. We will have a much more better chance to get something out of a game if we stay with 11.”


At CenturyLink Field, Seattle

Kickoff » Saturday, 8 p.m. MDT


Radio » 700 AM

Records » RSL 1-3-1, Sounders 3-0-1

Last meeting » RSL 2, Sounders 0 (June 2, 2018)

About the Sounders » They have not lost at home this season. … Jordan Morris and Raúl Ruidíaz lead team with three goals apiece, while Nicolás Lodeiro has three assists. … Have not scored in last three games against RSL. … Averaging 3.2 goals per game in current five-game home winning streak.

About RSL » They have won the last three matches against Seattle. … Joao Plata and Justen Glad are listed as probable, but coach Mike Petke said Friday that both will play with the Real Monarchs on Saturday. … Damir Kreilach will serve a suspension for receiving a red card against FC Dallas. … Three players have three yellow cards each.