Working out how to do a "Three Things" without it turning into a full thread of crying gifs was hard and so I'd like to thank Mike Petke for giving me something two write about this week that doesn't make me want to scream.
If I was a player, I wouldn't be at the beach. I wouldn't be wherever perhaps some of them are going to go. I would be in the gym. I would be on the soccer field. I would be going to see a sports psychiatrist. That's exactly what I would do. I would come back raring to go because I'm appalled at certain things. — Mike Petke
It's easy to overlook that a lot of MLS coaches have direct experience playing in this league. The league still seems so young that it can get lost from time to time that our coaches know what it's like to step into those stadiums, into those environments and that they coped with all the variables that the RSL squad will be facing now; injuries, call ups and being a transition team trying to hold the fort. Petke has said he can't protect people anymore and nor should he, it's down to those individual players to answer their critics and if they are going to do it, it needs to be on the field. So, here are three things I'd be thinking about if I were a Real Salt Lake player.
More specifically, what's been my fault? So much has been said about individual errors or poor choices being made on the field that it's impossible for any player who has laced a pair of boots this season to be able to say they've been error free. It's not like players have to be perfect but when you have errors by individuals at the alarming frequency we've had them in 16 games (by Goddess it feels like longer!) there needs to be more than an inquisition by the staff. Players need to look at their performance and work out what's gone wrong and what they need to be better because every player is capable of a better performance than they have been putting in.
Sometimes a player will know what they need. David James is a very famous example of a player who knew something was wrong. I've put the video below but for those who can't watch it, David "Calamity" James was a keeper for a lot of top flight teams and his career had been highlighted by a series of errors for club and the England squad. He famously began to see a sports psychologist and his form improved so much he became England's number one keeper for around 6 years.
He was ridiculed for his choice to get his head right (a appalling example of how British sports see mental health issues) but in the end he was vindicated as he rolled out for the England squad time and time again.
There's always so much emphasis put on the physical nature of sports and rightly so. Players ruin their bodies to represent the teams they play for and while they are paid well for it there's no escaping that their bodies are on the line when they come onto the pitch. RSL boast state of the art facilities and the staff that come along with it are some of the best but there are methods and regiments that sit outside the norm which players claim have taken them to the next level. Is it diet, is it the care players need post game for their bodies, is it even what they do on days off? I don't know but I trust that players know where they need physical help and they should be encourage to seek that out.
It's not always the body though. Maybe some of the players have other worries, personal issues or are just struggling with the way the first 16 (SIX-TEEN!!!!) games have gone. There is a lot to be happy about with who Mike Petke approaches things but there's one I take issue with and that's his overuse of the phrase "we have to be men". It's pretty sexist regardless of the league gender and it trivializes a person's mentality when they are in a competitive world. I'm a sufferer of mental health issues and I know how much mentality can affect physicality, how it's hard to get up some days because you're struggling so much. I'm not trying to cast a diagnosis on anybody here but if a player for RSL is having issues beyond physical they should find help, even if it's just a sports psychologist to address their attitude to the game.
For the badge
The big question for me would be "do I want to be here anymore" and that's not just aimed at Joao Plata. So many players don't seem to be playing for the badge and to me I'd think about this before the other two points I've made. Lots of players want to change clubs and for a number of reasons so it's not uncommon but I know that wanting to be somewhere or not makes a difference to your performance. MLS, much like America, is the land of opportunity and moving a player on isn't as hard as it can be in some leagues. If there are guys that need to move on from this chapter in their life then let them go because they aren't putting in the performance that the club needs nor will they be putting a performance in they are proud of. Duty needs to be to a person before the club and while I'd never want to lose quality I don't think there's a player on the roster bar 5-6 that I'd say I'd be sad about losing. So before they ask for anything to help, they need to ask if they even want to be there to get that help in the first place.
Big Dev Sandoval scored a great goal for the Deltas this weekend. I'm glad to see him doing well because he was a player I actually was sad about losing. He came up clutch a few times and I felt with the right system he could have been a great goalscorer for the club.
With the July window on the horizon it's time to start thinking about the jigsaw that is RSL at the moment and where we have missing pieces. Defense is the obvious one but I think there's a question to be asked about how Petke want's his team to shape up and how he is going to play. Wingers seem to be a lock as Savarino coming in on loan would indicate but beyond that I don't know how he sees everyone else lining up. Hopefully the cavalry will arrive from the U20 teams and we'll see the long awaited performances from Justen Glad we've been promised!
Good goal from Holness tho.