The Real Salt Lake offseason officially gave way to preseason on Saturday as the team reported to Rio Tinto Stadium for entrance physicals, photo shoots, and media interviews. The entire squad - minus the four players away on international duty - came by the stadium to meet with the coaches and media, and as usual there was plenty to talk about.
The warmest greeting of the day was for Javier Morales, proving that he is not just a fan favorite but also a favorite of the media as well. Most of the talk centered around Javi's decision to return to RSL despite getting offers from some big teams, including Espanyol in Spain and two Mexican clubs.
"I talked with my family a lot and I think I've found my place," said Morales. "Utah is my place, I'm very happy here, and I want to play for Real Salt Lake."
Unfortunately a few players came into camp carrying an array of knocks. Nick Rimando is nursing a shoulder injury that kept him out of U.S. National Team camp, Chris Wingert is in a boot with a 2nd metatarsal injury, but the most serious injury belongs to Nat Borchers, who underwent surgery on his knee just a few days ago.
"This is the same surgery I had on my left side as I did on my right side," said Borchers. "But I'm on a good timetable. I think three months is conservatively where we're at."
Even with a few injuries and call ups threatening to disrupt preseason camp, expectations for this season are high - "winning the cup is the main goal," said Robbie Findley - and players are definitely excited to be back underway. But the excitement level is perhaps highest for RSL's two newly-drafted rookies, John Stertzer and Devon Sandoval. Both players have had a whirlwind couple of days, going from the MLS combine to their homes, hastily packing a few bags, then flying out to Salt Lake just hours before reporting to camp.
"It's great to be here," said Stertzer. "I've been looking forward to this for the past couple of days, so for it to finally be here is great. I haven't had time to take it all in yet. The goal right now is just to work hard every day, give 100 percent."
"This past week's been pretty crazy," said Sandoval. "Now I've got to prove myself. I'm going to fight to help the team accomplish its goals. But I'm extremely happy to be here."
Right now there isn't time for Sandoval or anyone else to get too comfortable in Salt Lake - the team now heads down to Casa Grande, Ariz. for one week where they will roll the balls out for the first time in 2013.
A former RSL beat reporter for multiple outlets, Jeremy Horton is a regular contributor to RealSaltLake.com and covers the team for ESPN700 AM