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Three things to remember after SKC

If Portland was Dr Jekyll, SKC was Mr. Hyde.

MLS: Sporting KC at Real Salt Lake Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

After our game against Portland, I caused a bit of a stir by asserting a few observations I had. Many of our great readers came to the comments section to have a conversation with me, which is one of the big reasons why I love contributing here. However, it brings me no joy to say that the same things I pointed out in Portland happened again here tonight only this time, we weren’t lucky.

  • Shot hitting the woodwork? Yep, but it didn’t go in.
  • Getting into positions to that force SKC to give away set pieces? Yep, but we didn’t get called and instead it went against us.
  • Clear chances created by fantastic open play? Yep, but we hit them over the bar or at the keeper.

I’m not happy with that. Not with those things still going wrong, not with the was that game was officiated and I’m certainly not happy to be typing this out. In many ways, that was one of the best RSL performances this season. Acosta is the real deal and is going to break out where everybody pegged Jordan Allen to do so. Luis Silva managed to show why he’s best suited to be the striker in Petke-ball and everybody on the pitch looked like they were fighting for the team until natural lethargy hit in.

So I could write the same stuff again here. Rusnak needs to stop skying his shots. We need to start finishing our chances better. We have to concentrate for 90 minutes and not give away balls that lead to goals (although this is harsh, SKC are a team that will force you to do that and the whole team was dog tired). Petke has brought all the positives out in this team and now we’re left with a few things we need to clean up. In 7 days we welcome Columbus to Rio Tinto and rather than speak about the above three things against, here is three things to remember going into that game.

Open Season

The way the team has played since the start of the Petke era has evolved at a rapid pace and I felt tonight was an amazing example of that. The goal by Luis Silva was the culmination of that play. Acosta took the ball out of defence and played pass of the week through the heart of SKC and all that was left was for Plata to square the ball and Silva to finish with a pinpoint first time shot.

That’s the kind of thing this team is capable of on a weekly basis. Against Portland, that man Acosta popped up again and provided an assist to Plata for the 4th goal. If you take a look at the “Key Passes” of the game, only one comes from our own half and almost all of them are forward-facing balls pushing on goal.

This is the kind of play we need to keep taking with us, even when it doesn’t work out for us it’s vital to keep this kind of play because we’re very good at it these days. We’ve got the speed, passing accuracy and vision needed to make these chances come time and time again and we shouldn’t quit trying to perfect this play.

Nation of Domination

Beyond the open play chances, RSL have simply dominated every game they’ve played for the last few months, win, lose or draw. We’ve walked away from most game with better passing, better tackling, more shots, more crosses, more clearances, better possession. Everything! It’s why the lack of wins has been harder to stomach because we’re one of the better teams in the league, you just can’t tell that based on the results of the first stretch of the season. Tonight was no different. 20 shots on goal vs 9, 13 crosses vs 5, 84% passing accuracy, 55.6% possession, 39 duels won. The only stat SKC beat us on was saves at 5. That’s against a team Mike Petke calls one of the top two in the league and that’s rightly so. Kansas City can walk into any game with players out and still beat you convincingly, so to take the game to them in such a way where we should be walking out as winners shows we are that good.

Young at Heart

We’ve continued to emphasise how deep we our with players who are young and loaded with potential and it’s starting to show now. Danny Acosta is showing why he’s probably going to be our starting left back for the rest of the season which is great news at a position we’ve struggled to fill. Plata is finding the kind of form that made him so key to the way we played last season after a rocky start. Justen Glad’s return to the line up has given us a strong heart in defence which has put a stopper in that leaky defence. With these powers combined, we’re looking like a team that’s going to be building to an MLS Cup run. Keeping those guys in the line up, even when they may make mistakes, will give us a long term gain that can’t be turned away. Nobody expected us to challenge this season and to be fair after the first 5 games I think everybody saw the words “Rebuilding Year” flash over their faces. Keeping that going and those players growing has to be the focus of this year for me and so I hope we keep faith in our young players game after game.

I will follow Mike Petke to the end of the earth with this team after that press conference. That kind of fire and passion is a far cry from the Jeff Cassar days of “everything’s fine.”

For him to walk out with that kind of passion and prove unequivocally that the officiating level in MLS is so variable is a bold move, but he’s right. The thing that’s worse is it’s this kind of game, these kind of incidents that makes the league look bad. MLS content is shared everywhere these days thanks to more social media coverage from betting firms, certainly here in the UK. That Petke conference is gold and should rightly spread like wildfire but it’s going to show how the league hasn’t taken officiating seriously for a few years now. If there is any sense in the world, Petke’s words and evidence will be considered and changes will be made off the back of this and other instances of poor calls and changes will be made. What’s probably going to happen is Mike will have his knuckles wrapped by the powers that be and nothing will change because saying anything critical about the league while we’re in the era of expansion is forbidden, which is a damn shame when there’s so much room to grow.