After a cramped 2011 preseason culminated with a CONCACAF Champions League match in February, the key word this time around in Real Salt Lake camp might just be “patience.”
The club certainly has a bit more time to prepare for the onslaught of games beginning in March, and perhaps most importantly, heal the banged bodies that have missed time thus far this winter.
“The goal this year is to win a championship — to win MLS Cup, and that gets played in December,” general manager Garth Lagerwey told MLSsoccer.com from preseason camp in Arizona. “So we’re going to take a little longer-term view, and try to make some longer-term decisions to hopefully set up the organization for long-term success.”
The club split up into teams for an intrasquad scrimmage on Sunday, giving them a break from a full week of two-a-day practices.
“It’s always nice to play some 11-v-11 and get a sense of the big field and what we’re trying to accomplish in a game situation,” defender Chris Wingert said. “So it was nice to get out there and play a few periods.
“I think that the new guys are doing an awesome job of buying in to what we are trying to do and trying to implement that into a full-sided game,” he added. “So it was a good experience for them to try to learn a little bit, and a good experience for the guys coming back to try to get sharp.”
There are, however, still more than a few health issues for a number of veterans who have been sidelined and unable to participate. Álvaro Saborío (arthroscopic surgery), Javier Morales (Achilles tendonitis), Will Johnson (adductor strain), Kyle Beckerman (adductor strain), and Nat Borchers (quadricep strain) are all trying to find their way back into action after offseason ailments.
And after experiencing an injury-filled 2011, RSL are taking a cautious approach toward the health of those key players.
“They are rehabbing,” Lagerwey said. “Morales is rehabbing. Sabo’s rehabbing. There’s no pressure on any of those guys to get back tomorrow. The objective is to have them ready for March 10. That’s a different mentality than last year.
“Those are all veteran guys,” he added. “We know what they’re capable of. We just need them healthy and ready to play 50 games this year.”
While several RSL regulars are currently unable to go, a couple of other MLS veterans have joined the club's preseason camp in former New York and D.C. United midfielder Austin da Luz and former Chicago Fire midfielder Mike Banner.