Real Salt Lake returns home from Tucson, Arizona, and the final leg of preseason training camp on Sunday, and they will do so will fuller luggage as three players took home honors in the 2015 FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup and the team won the tournament championship.
Javier Morales won tournament MVP honors, Devon Sandoval took home the Copper Boot for being the leading scorer and Jamison Olave won the Defensive MVP award as RSL won all four matches in the Desert Diamond Cup to claim the title for the first time in four years competing in the tournament.
Morales bent a magnificent free kick into the top corner of the net for what proved to be the championship winning goal for RSL in the final match against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday. Always one to pull the strings for his club on the field, Morales has expanded his puppeteer role even more in the new 4-3-3 formation the team employed throughout preseason, giving him open season to shine even more than he did in the diamond formation that RSL played in for the majority of his previous seven years with the club.
“The team had a pretty good tournament and we won the cup,” Morales said. “We feel confident in our new formation, so everything is possible.”
In his return to the Claret-and-Cobalt, Olave led a sturdy defense that allowed three goals in four matches. He has seamlessly entrenched himself in the RSL back line again after a two-year absence when he thrived with the New York Red Bulls.
And in a tournament that featured a Sounders FC attack led by 2014 MLS MVP finalist Obafemi Martins and U.S. National Team star Clint Dempsey, a Sporting Kansas City side with a 22-goal scorer from 2014 in Dom Dwyer, an explosive New England Revolution attack with former U.S. standouts Juan Aguedelo and Charlie Davies, rising talents with the Colorado Rapids, it was Sandoval who would lead in scoring, netting three goals for the champions. Sandoval scored two penalties and added his third on a chip in a 2-1 win over Kansas City, taking dramatic steps forward after a sophomore season that saw him go scoreless.
“This past offseason I worked really hard to get myself ready and mentally prepared and I think it’s shown,” Sandoval said. “It’s time to really put in the work and get ready for Portland on Saturday.”
Real Salt Lake will resume training on Tuesday with an eye on Saturday’s season-opener against the Portland Timbers.