Roughly three months after Real Salt Lake’s season ended at the hands of eventual champion Seattle Sounders FC last October, its players, staff and front office are all preparing for preseason. RSL’s 16th season in Major League Soccer will begin when players report on January 18 with fans eager to see how the team progresses after what many would consider to be a successful season in 2019.
After finishing 3rd in the Western Conference a season ago and dropping a playoff result to the eventual champions, RSL is hungry to step foot on the pitch with sights set on silverware in 2020.
Head Coach Freddy Juarez will take the reigns as the official man in charge with his team in market for the very first time on January 18, with the group already familiar with what is expected of them. Under Juarez’s interim watch, the club stormed through the final third of the 2019 season to finish third in the West and claim the second most home victories of anyone in the conference, prompting the removal of the interim tag prior to the 2020 campaign.
“Myself, the staff and the team are excited to be back on the field with each other,” said Head Coach Freddy Juarez. “We are going to establish our identity and build on our excellent culture. The first few days are important as we establish exactly what we’re going to look like this season and I think fans are going to be excited.”
RSL returns the bulk of its starting eleven from a season ago but a familiar face in Nick Rimando will be absent between the pipes after he played the final match of his illustrious career at Seattle in the Western Conference semifinal. This will be RSL’s first season in 13 years that a sure-fire starting goalkeeper has yet to be named. The goalkeeping core of newly signed Zac MacMath, USYNT star David Ochoa and USL veteran Andrew Putna will have the entirety of preseason to show why each deserve to start the match at Orlando in a month’s time.
Known for its growth ladder, RSL locked up and signed two homegrown stars to new contracts during the offseason as Aaron Herrera re-upped on a new contract while rookie Milan Iloski made the jump to the professional ranks after three standout seasons and UCLA. In addition, the club welcomed Douglas Martinez to the roster midway through last season from USL Championship Title-Winner Real Monarchs. The club then signed Championship veteran Maikel Chang from the Monarchs not a week remove from lifting the USL Championship trophy, continuing the club’s long-standing mantra of growing from within.
For the 2020 season, RSL returns five of its top six goal scorers from the 2019 campaign. Leading the charge in 2019 was Albert Rusnák who now enters his fourth season in Utah and after scoring ten goals a season ago, will look to better his mark this season. Finishing the season with nine goals to his name, Sam Johnson now enters his second season in Utah as he looks to cement himself as a regular goal scorer for the Utah side.
RSL will train at the Zions Bank Training Center in Herriman until January 26 when it leaves for Phoenix, Arizona for one week. The team will then return to Utah and train for ten days before a 12-day stint in Tucson, Arizona where it will feature in the 2020 Visit Tucson Sun Cup, facing MLS and USL Championship competition. While in Arizona, the club and its affiliate RSL Arizona program will have the opportunity to mix, with select Academy players able to train with the first team to gain valuable experience during the preseason.
As previously mentioned, the club will kick off its 16th season in MLS on February 29 at Orlando City SC before returning home to welcome the New York Red Bulls to Rio Tinto Stadium on March 7. RSL season tickets are available at RSL.com or by calling 844.REAL.TIX.