Real Salt Lake will be without their leading scorer in Sam Johnson for the next six to eight weeks, head coach Mike Petke revealed after RSL’s 4-0 win over the Philadelphia Union on Saturday. The Liberian Designated Player has already missed two straight matches, but still leads RSL with eight goals through 16 games.
Johnson joined RSL this past offseason from Norwegian club Valerenga, though has had some stops and starts in MLS. In early May, he made post-game comments demanding to see more of the ball, then missed a team meeting in late May, getting dropped from the XI entirely. Petke has since attributed the mishaps to a “grace period” as Johnson adjusts to his new environment.
In Johnson’s absence, RSL is likely to turn to Damir Kreilach or Corey Baird at center forward. The former has 19 goals across the regular season and playoffs since joining the club prior to the 2018 season, while the latter was named the MLS Rookie of the Year a campaign ago.
Without Johnson, RSL will look to maintain their Western Conference playoff spot. It’ll help that six of their next 10 league matches are at Rio Tinto Stadium, though there’s another competition looming in Leagues Cup. In the inaugural MLS-Liga MX tournament, the Claret & Cobalt are drawn against Tigres UANL on July 24 for a quarterfinal. Tigres won the 2019 Clausura and finished as runners-up in the Concacaf Champions League this past spring.