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Mike Petke looking to iterate on RSL’s tactics

The RSL coach’s interview with ESPN700 laid out his tactical vision for the club.

DC United v New York Red Bulls Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Newly crowned Real Salt Lake coach Mike Petke takes charge of his first game for the side on Saturday, but he’s adamant that he won’t just be installing a new tactical system wholesale.

In an interview on ESPN 700, he expounded on his tactical plans, laying out some of the first steps he’ll be taking.

Going into this morning was my opportunity to meet with the team officially for the first time and lay out on video who I am and what my expectations are and to start chipping away at the blueprint. It wasn’t a situation I wanted today where I did or even wanted to throw 18 different concepts at them. It’s a building block. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We laid out our objectives for the Vancouver game leading into how we’re going to play a little bit differently.

The main thing? It’s about aggression, and Petke’s planning to adjust how deep the defense plays.

I look at the way the foundation’s been laid from a defensive standpoint, and for me, it’s a little too deep. It’s a little too non-aggressive. I wanted to come in and that was number one priority for me. If we can get a bit of a higher starting point — a lot higher starting point, actually — and be specific with the players of the areas that we want them at, the areas that they win the ball, how we want to win the ball in these areas. A big thing goes to positioning in defenses, because what happens from there, when we win the ball, we can transition much easier to offensive players in a good starting position offensively then get to goal.

That transition is surely a thing that RSL has failed to really make work for them, and

For me, I don’t just look at the play just around when the goal was scored. Obviously, the Nick situation, that’s a throwaway — that’s a one in a million. Nothing needs to be addressed with that with Nick.

The other goals, for me, I look back a minute or so before that about where we perhaps could have prevented the first ball deep in their half from getting through to our half. From there, our pressure should have been a little bit more aggressive, our angles should have been a little bit better so it didn’t bypass there.

Of course, everyone always looks when the goal’s scored, who was it scored on, who was the defender that made the mistake or overcompensated or didn’t have his mark, so for me it’s not just a mentality thing, it’s a starting point position thing. That’s again, to go back to what we’re really trying to focus on in the immediate future. From there, we go to some other things.

Petke’s comments on the response from the squad are worth a read, too:

I would say that their desire to grab a hold of something and to right the ship. Looking on from previous weeks, not so much last week, but when I was with the Monarchs observing here and there, you know, everybody just worked hard, had good attitudes. To have some individual conversations and to see them in the meeting today, they are dying for something to click. They know very well right now, it’s definitely on myself and the coaching staff, but they have to buy into it, they have to be a part of the process as well.