After an unexpected delay in Real Salt Lake’s travel plans, the team now shifts its focus to a small stint in Herriman where the team will train in the interim before it travels to Tucson, Arizona on Friday.
Not dwelling on the inconveniences of delayed or interrupted travel plans, RSL is making the most of the opportunity to get better as a group after two tough contests in Hawaii last week.
“After nearly 14 hours in an airport we thought it was necessary to get the team back into a familiar environment,” Head Coach Mike Petke said. “Getting quality training sessions in and being somewhere that’s familiar is what’s important.”
Spending last week in Honolulu, Hawaii, RSL wasn’t necessarily focused on winning – although the group aims to win whenever it can – but rather finding the right mentality against an opponent and executing plans set forth by the coaching staff in the first two weeks.
“The first team we played in Hawaii – Iwaki FC – gave us a perfect game,” Petke reflected. “They only play 14-match season and have quite a long preseason. The pressure they put us under was unbelievable and that caused us some problems. We needed to face that in preseason while we’re still getting our fitness and finding our feet a bit. We were happy to get the win that came with a lot of good things. Overall the matches in Hawaii were good for us to see the good things we’re doing.”
Off the field and away from the two matches that were played in Hawaii, the team found that regardless of the circumstances that were presented, it could move past obstacles and focus strictly on progressing as a team. From a less than ideal training pitch provided to them in Hawaii to certain weather occurrences, the team continued to evolve and improve.
“You didn’t hear a peep out of the players about any of the circumstances,” Petke said. “The players had phenomenal attitudes. They knew we were going to be in these situations similar to when the summer months arrive during a long season. They got on with it and we got a lot out of our time there.”
On the field the players have seen the growth within the group over the first three weeks of preseason camp. From tactics and familiarity on the field with one another, the players are eager to continue training and getting better as its opener on March 2 in Houston looms.
“The last two matches we’ve played against the J-League sides were a great test for us,” RSL defender Tony Beltran said. “Once we arrived in Hawaii our focus on segregating offensive and defensive tactics on the field really started to be put into place. We were fortunate to get two great games to be able to work on those items. As a whole we’re trending in a positive direction.”
RSL now turns its focus to a matchup with USL Championship side Phoenix Rising FC on Saturday at Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex. After Saturday’s bout with the USL Cup runners-up, RSL will face FC Dallas on Wednesday February 20 at Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, Arizona and the Portland Timbers on Saturday, February 23 again at Kino Sports Complex.