Can Real Salt Lake Pick Up Points On The Road In 2019?

Mar 1, 2019, 4:29 PM | Updated: 4:50 pm
Head coach Mike Petke directs players during a Real Salt Lake practice at America First Field in Sa...
Head coach Mike Petke directs players during a Real Salt Lake practice at America First Field in Sandy on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)
(Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

SANDY, Utah – Real Salt Lake’s last two season have not been stellar when it comes to picking up points on the road.

They looked slow, confused and rushed playing away from home, yet at Rio Tinto Stadium they played fast and confident.

For whatever reason, the team, led by head coach Mike Petke, has played at a completely different level on the road over the past couple of seasons.

If RSL wants to contend for a MLS Cup in 2019, they will need to get results away from home.

Growing Pains In ’17

Petke took over the reigns in March 2017, with the team four games into the season. During his first year Petke’s squad was only able to pick up 13 points on the road out of a possible 45. That included 4 wins, 10 losses and 1 tie. RSL also had a goal differential of minus-16 away from home that year.

The fans and media gave Petke a pass as he did not get a preseason with the first team prior to taking over.

Throughout the course of the season he was tasked with implementing his own strategy while also worrying about how the players would react in the midst of the season.

It was a slow process. He was unable to bombard his players with all of his strategic game plans knowing that it would take time for them to comprehend the information. Therefore, over the course of the season he slowly, but surely, coached his players into playing a style in which he wanted them to.

Real Salt Lake finished 8th in the Western Conference, two spots shy of a playoff berth.

It was fair to say that there were growing pains.

Play At Home Made Playoffs Possible in ’18

Entering the 2018 season, it was hoped that RSL would perform better on the road. They did not.

Real Salt Lake picked up just 12 points on the road of a possible 51 in 2018. That included 3 wins, 11 losses and 3 ties with a goal differential of minus-17.

This time around, however, there were no excuses for Real Salt Lake. Petke had an entire preseason with the first team. The team should have known his system better.

Yet once again, Real Salt Lake was clearly not the same team on the road as they were at home.

Fortunately during the 2018 season, the “fortress” that once existed at Rio Tinto Stadium while Jason Kreis was the manager began to re-emerge. There was a genuine buzz around the grounds on match day. Credit Petke and his players for making that happen.

Real Salt Lake would win 11 games and only lose 2 at home in 2018 while holding a plus-17 goal differential when playing at home.

They finished 6th in the Western Conference and 12th overall and were able to scratch their way into the playoffs for the first time in two years.

Make no mistake, RSL’s play at home made it possible for the team to make the playoffs despite the poor play on the road.

Third Times A Charm

The 2019 season will hopefully be a different story when it comes to picking up points away from home.

The team added center defensive midfielder, Everton Luiz from Serie A with the hopes of helping mainstays Kyle Beckerman and Luke Mulholland control the defensive side of midfield.

Nedum Onuoha was a late addition from Queens Park Rangers in 2018 and proved a valuable asset to solidifying composure at the center back position with his play late in the season.

As for how Petke plans on picking up points on the road remains a mystery. His track record does not indicate anything will change.

As seems to be the case every year, however, optimism and hope is what surrounds RSL prior to the 2019 season.

Season Finally Here, Houston Causes Matchup Concerns

Real Salt Lake will be traveling to Houston to face the Houston Dynamo  March 2nd, in the first week of MLS play. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. and will be broadcast on the KSL TV app.

The Dynamo are a dangerous team. They return their leading goal scorer in Mauro Manotas who slotted 19 in the back of the net for the Dyanmo last year. They also return their leading set-up man, Tomas Martinez who had 13 assists next to his name in 2018.

The most dangerous player for the Dynamo and the player RSL will want to keep an eye on come Saturday may be Alberth Elis. The Hondurian international is incredibly versatile and can pose problems to Real Salt Lake’s defense. Elis arrived to Houston on loan in 2017 and since then has scored 21 times from 56 appearances.

The Houston Dynamo failed to make the playoffs in 2018.

It will be an early road test for Real Salt Lake, one that could set the tone for how the team plays away from home this season.

Be sure to follow KSLSports on Twitter and Facebook for all the latest on Real Salt Lake this season.

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Can Real Salt Lake Pick Up Points On The Road In 2019?