Sounder at Heart: Obviously, Mike Petke is dominating the headlines in Salt Lake. First being suspended, then getting fired, and then issuing a lame apology. Are you glad to see him go? Can you tell me a little bit about the next steps following his departure?
RSL Soapbox: I wouldn’t say I’m glad to see Petke go, but it was very much the right choice for the club to make. Regardless if Petke meant to use that word as a homophobic slur, and I don’t see how you could miss that, the anger issues that cause a coach to berate a ref on the field, in the tunnel, and slip a note under the ref’s locker room door are a huge problem. He’s been suspended by the league every July since joining RSL and this seemed to be the final straw. He ends his time with RSL with 37 wins, 38 losses, and 15 draws.
Freddy Juarez will serve as interim head coach for the remainder of the 2018 season. Juarez is a much more soft-spoken man than Petke. Jason Kreis was also quite soft-spoken coach, but you could see a real fire in him. Freddy is much calmer. He’s been with the RSL organization for about a decade, having spent many years with the academy, serving as the first head coach of Real Monarchs, then as an assistant to Petke for the last two years. Presumably the FO is looking for a replacement while evaluating if Juarez could be the next head coach. Owner Dell Loy Hansen seems to be a fan of hiring internally, and all of RSL’s head coaches have come from within the organization — Kreis wa former player — with the exception of John Ellinger, who was the team’s first manager.
SAH: Real Salt Lake sits sixth in the West. They have an awesome home record, and a below average away record. What needs to happen in order for RSL to solidify their playoff spot in the coming weeks?
RSB: This week will be extremely difficult for RSL as they face two teams in the Western Conference who sit above them in the standings. Wednesday is obviously the Sounders, and this Saturday they host LAFC. It’s a 12-point swing for them. The win last weekend at Sporting Kansas City was huge, but we’ll need to see the team continue to score. That’s been a bit of a struggle at times, and we’re starting to see more play go through Albert Rusnak and Damir Kreilach. That’s an improvement as they are both gifted play-makers. Last year’s Rookie of the Year Corey Baird got a brace in that game after a fairly uneventful season for him. Jefferson Savarino has kicked up into another gear in the last few months.
So much of 2018 depends on how the team responds to Freddy as their new, albeit temporary, coach. He helped develop guys like Baird, Glad, Herrera, and Bofo at the academy and it seems safe to say they have a good relationship with him. There were rumors that Petke had lost the locker room. That seems like an exaggeration to me, but I think he may have lost the confidence of some players. If RSL sees a new manager bump with Juarez, then they could have a decent shot at a 2019 post-season.
SAH: The Sounders are hilariously bad in Salt Lake. It’s been seven years since they’ve managed to get a point. Given the drama over the last few weeks, what can the Sounders do to exploit RSL and hopefully pick up their first win in ages in Sandy?
RSB: RSL’s outside backs can be a liability. Assuming we see Aaron Herrera and Donny Toia, those two are decent, but not exactly outstanding either. Glad has certainly had off games, but been much stronger in 2019 than last season. Midfielder Everton Luiz is always up to get a yellow card, so if the Sounders apply pressure to him, it’s not unlikely that he could give away a dangerous foul or even be sent off. The same goes for Marcelo Silva, but I think we’re more likely to see Nedum Onuoha at centerback for this match.
Coming back to coaching, I’m very curious to see how Juarez manages players in the midst of a busy double-game week at home. LAFC is running away with the Supporters’ Shield, and they delivered RSL their biggest home loss in club history last season, so Freddy may prioritize that game, especially given some of the Sounders injuries. That could lead to some inexperience on the field, but we’ll have to wait until Wednesday night to know for sure.
The reverse set of questions can be found over at RSL Soapbox.