SANDY — Mike Petke has had enough.
The first-year Real Salt Lake head coach didn’t mince words after his club’s 6-2 loss at FC Dallas on Saturday evening, the fifth-consecutive road loss with an aggregate scoring of 19-3.
And Petke is ready to make some changes.
“We have a break now. I made it very clear to the guys: go enjoy yourself, you need a break,” Petke said after the rout. “I advised them to work out during their break because when they get back, and we have the Under-20 and injured boys back, they are going to be fighting like dogs for positions because it’s not good enough.”
Saturday’s loss followed a 5-1 loss at Houston, sending Real Salt Lake (4-10-2) to the penultimate spot in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference. The Salt Lake club is just one point ahead of Colorado, and is averaging a league-worst 0.88 points per game through the first 16 matches of the regular season.
There were bright spots during RSL’s Texas Two-Step, such as Joao Plata’s goal against the Dynamo and Omar Holness’ first career MLS marker against Dallas. But Petke didn’t want to hear any of it.
RSL has allowed a league-high 35 goals amid a patchwork assembly of defense spread thin by injuries and international call-ups. The team has scored just 15 times, tied for the fourth-fewest in MLS.
“We talked about this after the Houston game. I was a little bit gentler, but I’m just appalled by certain things that we talk about clear as day and then to go out there and not put one of them in play … that tells me one of two things: either they’re not listening or they’re not good enough,” Petke said. “Some of them, but either way, it’s the same end result — 11 goals in two games. I’ve never been a part of something like this.”
There are excuses for RSL’s dismal returns: the club has played the most matches in the West, with its second three-games-in-eight-day week coming off the loss to Dallas.
But they’re just that: excuses, and the players know they need to do better.
“It’s not one thing. If it was one thing, it would be easy to correct,” defender Chris Wingert said in Dallas. “There are a lot of things wrong at this point.
“We need to start from ground zero and work our way back. There are no positives to take out of this except that maybe we need a couple days away and then really get back after it and start from ground zero and work our way back into competing. This is just unacceptable.”
Petke took his hometown New York Red Bulls from an underachieving team in the Eastern Conference to an MLS Supporters’ Shield and a conference championship in just two years as head coach. If anyone can rebuild the MLS franchise in Sandy, it’s him.
But it’s time to take things seriously. The honeymoon is over for the new head coach.
It's time to get down to business — whatever that means.
“I have to take the gloves off now,” he said. “A lot of it has to do with players not accepting their responsibilities. For some reason, there is not enough of that.”
RSL next plays June 17 at home against Minnesota United FC — the expansion club that defeated Salt Lake 4-2 in the Loons' first-ever victory in MLS play.