This week, Head Coach Mike Petke sat down with the media today to wrap up the 2018 season as there was much to take away. Petke touched on the positive step forward Real Salt Lake took and an overall learning experience this season. From homegrown players playing the most minutes in MLS this season, finishing with the most home wins in the West, to making playoffs, and the plan for the offseason.
The Ups and Downs
In every season, there are highs and lows. When Coach Petke was asked about these moments, he answered.
“The low point, very easy, was the first home game of the year against LAFC. It was possibly one of my worst losses as a coach.”
LAFC was unknown at the start of the season and RSL came back in the knockout round of playoffs to defeat LAFC, 3-2. RSL experienced other high points this season; from young players gaining experience in the league, gathering the most home wins in the West (11-2-4) and to making playoffs. Petke was also asked his favorite goal of the season, and the karate kick by Damir Kreilach in the knockout round against LAFC was a standout.
The homegrown players gaining experience was a highlight of the 2018 season. Petke mentioned Corey Baird and his breakout year. Baird won The MLS Rookie of the Year award and contributed eight goals this season for RSL.
“It is part of his learning process. From his attitude, to his work rate, and his effectiveness in the lineup for us, exceeded expectations this year. Now it is on him, and us as a collective, to take a step forward next year.”
RSL tracked the most minutes played by homegrown players with a total of 10,826 regular season minutes. Petke expressed the young players earned spots on the team.
“I am very happy again with the amount of minutes we got for these young players and if things continue in the right way, they are going to get more minutes next year.”
RSL still does not have a striker on the roster and gaining a true number nine would be ideal next season. Damir Kreilach came into RSL as a number eight, but proved he is capable of being a number nine, as he scored 12 goals this season. When asked about adding new players to the roster, Petke mentioned the RSL culture.
With a year and a half in the books for Head Coach Mike Petke, evolving the culture and style of play for the team is essential to him and his staff. Petke included there is always room for improvement when it comes to culture.
“Culture for me, is the utmost important. My staff and I, with a majority of the players, have done a lot since I took over in improving the culture, but there is still room for improvement. When you say those key words, doing anything for the team, that is what we need out of 30 players, not 18, not 22, not 25. Out of 30 players.”
The coaching staff will build off the 2018 season and continue to design the RSL way for next season.
RSL finished with the best regular season home record in the West 11-2-4 and overall completed a 14-13-7 record. RSL fell short in the playoff run, but Head Coach Mike Petke and the team will take that as motivation for next season, as winning the MLS Cup is the ultimate goal for every team.