RSL adjusts approach on the road for 2018 season

FC Dallas forward Maximiliano Urruti, front, controls the ball during the first half of an MLS soccer game against Real Salt Lake in Frisco, Texas, Saturday, March 3, 2018. (Stewart F. House/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

Frisco, Texas • The Mike Petke of last season may have pushed for another goal, instilling an aggressive mentality into a team that, when he took it over four matches into the season, was winless.

Now, “We’re trying to adapt a little different mentality on the road this year,” Petke said after Saturday night’s 1-1 draw at FC Dallas. “We worked a lot this week and the week before knowing Dallas would be in better shape due to the two [CONCACAF Champions League] games. Maybe a little sharper. It was about being patient in our midfield third defending and looking to counter.”

That approach had Real Salt Lake leading for almost 60 minutes before a late own goal earned one point instead of three. After missing the playoffs by one point last year, Petke signaled that RSL may play the numbers game more this season.

Without sacrificing the style that lifted RSL from the bottom of the table midway through the 2017 season, the team will likely play a little more conservatively on the road to claim what points they can.

“Coming home with one point from Dallas, halfway though the season, it’s probably a good thing,” Albert Rusnák said Saturday, “but right now it’s still short after the game, and I still feel like it’s a loss, you know?”

RSL brought on central defender David Horst for winger Jefferson Savarino in the 84th minute to help hold the lead, and Petke said they may have waited a little longer to make the move had it not been the first match of the season. The gap in energy between RSL and Dallas was visible by the last 20 minutes of the match.

After Marcelo Silva scored an own-goal in the 86th minute, RSL relied on its defensive shape to keep Dallas from threatening again in the final minutes. It limited FC Dallas to two shots — one blocked, another going wide — and had one shot at a game-winner itself by Luis Silva in the fourth minute of stoppage time.

“After the game it’s quick to get down and look at the negatives of an own goal at the end of the game, but I think the spirits changed real quick when we got in here,” goalkeeper Nick Rimando said. “And we don’t usually get a lot of points here in Dallas.”

Last season RSL lost to FC Dallas twice, 3-0 at home the first time, and then 6-2 on the road.