Slow-starting Real Salt Lake finally have momentum; now they hope it travels to Cincinnati

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Real Salt Lake midfielder Albert Rusnak (11) brings the ball downfield, in MLS soccer action at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Saturday, March 9, 2019.

Herriman • When Real Salt Lake went into Rio Tinto Stadium last Saturday coming on the heels of a four-game losing streak, the team collectively felt some nerves. Coach Mike Petke alluded to that in his postgame remarks, even though his team picked up the 2-1 win over Orlando City SC.

Snapping the losing streak had to feel good for an RSL squad that started the season with only one win in its first six games. Now as Real heads on the road to face expansion side Cincinnati FC, they’re looking to keep that momentum going. But it could be more challenging to do that away from home.

“I know in this league it’s tough to keep that winning streak going when you’re going on road,” midfielder Albert Rusnáks said Tuesday after training.

RSL sits eighth in the Western Conference and has played four road games so far this season. The only team in the West that has played more than four is Minnesota United, which is 3-2-0 in those games and is in sixth.


When • Friday, 5:30 p.m. MDT


Runsák said part of the reason why the top teams in Major League Soccer are at the top is because they have had the majority of their games at home. RSL is in the midst of a stretch where six of its first nine games are away from Rio Tinto. That makes it difficult for Real to gain much traction, Runsák said.

“I fee like that momentum is easier to build when you have a couple of home games in a row, and you win those and then you go for one away and then you come back home for two again,” Rusnák said. “It’s easier to kind of get points on board.”

The team’s road-heavy schedule prompted Petke to focus more on defending to start the season. But a rash of red cards have hampered some of the road results the team felt it could have earned.

Now that RSL started what Damir Kreilach termed as its “new season” with a win this past weekend, building on it will be paramount. Defender Donny Toia, who started his second game of the season against Orlando, said he definitely believes RSL has momentum going next week, and that the key to keeping momentum is staying focused.

“It’s just the mentality from first minute to the 90th minute,” Toia said. “You just have to stay focused the entire time and concentrate on the objective.”

Rusnák said the game against Cincinnati will be difficult enough is it is based on the fact that it’s on the road, and cited how dismal the team’s away record has been over the past couple of years. But he’s confident that the team can reverse its fortunes on that front.

“I feel like it takes that one game to break that kind of bad lock on road,” Runsák said. “I think things could change around.”