Generating offense remains a work in progress for Real Salt Lake as they travel to face New York City FC for a midweek MLS showdown.
RSL (2-2-1) took a step forward in that department after getting back in the win column against Vancouver on Saturday. Salt Lake scored multiple goals in a match for the first time this season, taking down the Whitecaps 2-1.
While happy with the win, RSL coach Mike Petke feels like his team is still too many steps behind when it comes to generating quality attacks on goal. Salt Lake has totaled just six goals in five matches.
The Utah club led MLS with 16.1 shots per match last season. Salt Lake is generating just 10.6 shots per match through five games in 2018.
“If I’m being very honest in assessing the team five games in, I don’t like the way we’re playing with the ball,” Petke told reporters on Saturday. “I don’t think a lot of the players do. We’re wondering what’s going on here? When did we stop playing? When did we stop having ideas? From last year and from preseason this year, it seems to be a little bit of a confidence thing.”
NYCFC are back in action after a 10-day layoff since a 2-1 victory over San Jose on March 31. The long rest enabled the team to bring back some key players who have been struggling with injuries.
David Villa, Alex Ring and Ronald Matarrita are all healthy at the same time for the first time since Week 2. The trio is expected to be available to play against Salt Lake on Wednesday. Villa is also expected to make his first start since suffering a calf injury in a 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy on March 11.
In the team’s last game without Villa, NYCFC overcame giving up a goal to the Earthquakes in the third minute to rally for a win. The result told New York coach Patrick Vieira his team is building the mental toughness it needs for a long season.
“It is important to talk about the character of the team,” Vieira told reporters after the match at San Jose. “I have always believed that good teams don’t just play well. They fight when it is time to fight. In the last 15-20 minutes, it was really difficult, but we rolled up our sleeves and we fought for each other, and this is the character we need to show.”
An infusion of key players back into the lineup will only make NYCFC (4-0-1) more formidable on the pitch. New York has allowed just four goals in five matches, which is tied for second-fewest among MLS teams. It has totaled 10 goals in the same stretch, which also ranks in the top five in the league.
—Field Level Media