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Why RSL needs a win against New York

Even though a poor start is easily recoverable in MLS, the implications for a loss could be staggering.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Real Salt Lake Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake’s loss against Los Angeles FC on Saturday was inexcusable.

Another loss on Saturday would be beyond the pale, and a poor performance could see dangerous repercussions to the team.

That’s not because RSL couldn’t turn things around in short order — one point from three matches is bad, but this is MLS, and you can recover from that extraordinarily easily thanks to a low bar of entry to the playoffs.

But points aren’t really the point. If Mike Petke loses the faith of the crowd at Rio Tinto, it will undo some of the good work he did last fall in winning the crowd over. I wouldn’t even say that is particularly fair, but by the same token, you can’t expect crowds to embrace optimism in defeat.

It’s not just about fans, though. Let’s break down a few reasons that are on my mind.

Team morale

I hope players aren’t feeling particularly great about Saturday’s loss, because nobody should feel good about being terrible at their job. But if players are hanging their heads already, we’re in trouble — and another loss might escalate the pace at which we approach that path.

After all, the currencies with which a professional operates is confidence and trust, and if those disappear, RSL is in a world of trouble. Without confidence, the trust of your teammates will disappear; without trust, we lose the entire basis of our team.

That may not be the case for every system, but our style demands it. By playing an attacking style, we create a need for trust. By way of example, Adam Henley shouldn’t commit fully in the attack unless he has confidence that someone is covering his run, or that the team will properly recover if someone loses possession. That’s not something we saw on Saturday, and that sort of thing can’t become a trend.

Positional stability

If RSL loses again, players spots will be up for grabs. That, on its own, isn’t a bad thing. But you want to create those opportunities naturally, through ill-timed injuries, suspensions, national team absences, and the like.

But positions being up for grabs is, on its own, not particularly a bad thing. But if we want to perform, we need stability, and we have yet to have anything more than a glimmer of hope that we’ll get there. Stability is not created by switching players in and out because they’re not performing.

Win at home, draw on the road

That’s the mentality you often hear from general managers (good luck getting most coaches to say it after dropping points for a draw, of course). If you win at home and draw on the road, you’re generally golden. I know five to seven points dropped is not season-defining in this league, but dropping six of 51 points would be more than 10 percent of our potential points total.

For the sake of our future selves, we need a win.