Real Salt Lake kicked off the second leg of preseason on Wednesday in Tucson, Arizona, where the club will make its home over the next nine days while gearing up for the start of the 2018 MLS season on March 4. After already dipping into tactics during the first leg of camp at the Zions Bank Training Center in Herriman, Utah, it is more of the same in Arizona as competition heats up for starting positions.
“I loved the attitude. I love that guys came in fit,” RSL Head Coach Mike Petke said after the first training session in the Grand Canyon State. “Now it’s the second week. We’ve got a week full week in altitude under our belts. Now we’re on beautiful grass fields in beautiful weather. We’re kicking it up a notch – from an effort, duration of practice and how much tactics we’re going to lay on them.”
With a slew of veteran leaders returning in 2018 – led by goalkeeper Nick Rimando and midfielder Kyle Beckerman – and an eager roster that was among the hottest teams in MLS over the final 15 games of the season but missed the postseason by a single point, the intensity has been high from the start of camp. After a day off on Tuesday and traveling on Wednesday morning, the team didn’t miss a beat in returning to the practice field in the afternoon at Kino Sports Complex for the first of eight scheduled training sessions – along with two scheduled preseason matches against the LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes.
“The first session here tonight after they got off a plane was pretty intense. That’s what we want to see,” Petke said. “Two games coming up this week with a ton of practices in between, we’re looking to accomplish a lot.”
The first session saw the returns of RSL’s trio of players that earned their first call-ups to the U.S. National Team, as forward Brooks Lennon and defenders Justen Glad and Danny Acosta were back with the club. None of the three appeared in a scoreless draw against Bosnia for the U.S. over the weekend.
The session also included five players from Real Monarchs SLC – Sebastian Velasquez, Andrew Putna, Justin Portillo, David Diosa and Maikel Chang – as well as four players from the RSL Academy – Sebastian Soto, Erik Virgen, Glademir Mendoza and Jacob Jackson.
RSL will be back on the practice field at Kino Sports Complex for two scheduled sessions on Thursday, with one more on Friday before facing the LA Galaxy on Saturday.