RSL slowly but surely learning from difficult road losses

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Real Salt Lake hosts FC Dallas, MLS soccer at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Saturday July 7, 2018. Real Salt Lake forward Brooks Lennon (12) and FC Dallas defender Kris Reaves (32).

Herriman • In the waning moments of Tuesday’s training session, Real Salt Lake forward Brooks Lennon was engaged in a heated game of soccer tennis with three teammates. He let out barbaric yawps when he won a point, and passionately litigated his point of view when he lost one.

After Lennon, et al, finished, RSL head coach Mike Petke and three assistants took over. They played for more than 20 minutes, just as passionately as the players before them. Petke decried losing points, and celebrated winning them almost as vehemently.

It’s a testament to how competitive a roster RSL has, from the coach on down. So when the team feels it played well against an opponent — i.e. the 2-0 road loss to Atlanta United on Saturday — but still can’t secure a result, it doesn’t sit well with the team.

It has been a trend this season. RSL’s 2-0 road loss to Vancouver. Its 3-1 road loss to Orlando City. Now the Atlanta loss on Saturday. All games in which the team left a city feeling like it could have — maybe even should have — come away with points.

“They’re all amazing performances from the team,” Lennon said Tuesday after training. “We’ve done everything that the coaches have asked of us. Every single player on the field put their full effort in, and we came up short. That’s tough.”

Those types of losses particularly sting more for Petke, especially when a miscue here or there is what turned the tide away from RSL’s favor. He said that while he strives to maintain a positive outlook in front of his players after a loss, it takes him a little longer to get past it.

“My mantra has always been it’s on to the next game,” Petke said. “But that’s certainly not true, if I’m being honest. It takes me a day or two to get over on my own.”

Those missed opportunities have generally happened on the road this season. But the team is starting to turn things around on that front, slowly but surely, Lennon said. He pointed to road games against Seattle and Houston — both wins — where he has seen signs that RSL’s young squad has started learning how to get results away from Rio Tinto Stadium.

Petke said he has seen the team better manage road games as the season has gone on, but still could not pinpoint the exact reason RSL has struggled away from home. The team is 3-10-2 away from Rio Tinto.

“If I had those bona fide answers,” Petke said with a laugh, “I’d be at Barcelona right now.”


When • Sunday, 3 p.m. MDT