Mike Petke: “They still had their special moments, but our determination and the goals we scored tonight show some you-know-what. I’m proud and it’s a great feeling.” (Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports)
LOS ANGELES — Immediately after his team had beaten the Los Angeles Football Club Thursday night, Real Salt Lake head coach Mike Petke admitted he was “a bit frazzled right now.”
Then again, many a coach would feel that away after upsetting a favored side in the MLS Cup Playoffs. RSL scored the first and most importantly, the last goal in what turned into a 3-2 victory at Bank of California Stadium.
“It was a heck of an emotional game, but this LAFC team that we beat tonight is one of the best, if not the best, expansion team,”the former Red Bulls head coach said said. “And then if you put that they’ve been in the league for 10 years my opinion wouldn’t change that they’re one of the best teams in this league, player for player, coaching.”
Due to the fact Major League Soccer had an odd number of teams — 23 — RSL did not play on Decision Day last Sunday. So, the players, coaches and staff had to watch and bite their nails to see whether they were going to qualify for the postseason. They did — as the sixth and final team in the Western Conference.
“We worked a lot over the last 7-10 days, because we had that extra rest, on how the game was going to unfold, how we wanted it to unfold,” Petke said We knew that we weren’t going to have the ball because of their possession, we knew that they have special players in [Diego] Rossi, [Carlos] Vela, [Benny] Feilhaber, and [Lee] Nguyen, we even pinpointed their outside backs [Jordan] Harvey and [Steven] Beitashour as very dangerous players in their attack.
“We worked a lot on our movement, on limiting space centrally, trying to attack on the sideline, and for them to come in here and do that, and execute it, and put that performance in, at times it wasn’t pretty, but that’s what you have to do to get a result. I’m evolving as a coach everyday, I think I lose this game last year or at my last job, but we identified it and we limited them. They still had their chances. They still had their special moments, but our determination and the goals we scored tonight show some you-know-what. I’m proud and it’s a great feeling.”
RSL will host Sporting Kansas City, the No. 1 seeded in the conference, Sunday at 10 p.m.