What a difference a day makes. Real Salt Lake traded the blustery cold and snow of Utah on Monday for sunny skies and green grass fields on the UCLA campus on Tuesday. After a day of fitness at altitude at the Zions Bank Real Academy, RSL continued preseason by boarding a plane and flying out to the west coast where they brought out the balls and started building towards the club’s ultimate goals in 2019.
An eager mood to get back together was elevated even higher on Tuesday when the exercises weren’t just tests of strength, speed and endurance, but possession drills and small-sided games. The energy was palpable as players kicked off the session on Tuesday afternoon by wishing Sebastian Saucedo a happy 22nd birthday.
After that bit of fun, the intensity returned as Head Coach Mike Petke emphasized the importance of every training session in maximizing the opportunity to succeed on gamedays. With a young core to the roster returning from 2018, the expectations are high in the new year, but captain Kyle Beckerman has been in the league long enough to know that it will take much more to reach the next level.
“We’ve just got to keep building consistency. But just because we gained experience, it doesn’t guarantee us anything this year,” he said. “We’ve got to put in that work and hopefully the results will come with that.”
RSL finished the 2018 season with a 14-13-7 record, reaching the Western Conference Semifinals. Now with the knowledge of what it takes to put together a playoff season and advance in the postseason, there is more to be had for RSL.
“The bar is set high this year and everyone knows that,” Brooks Lennon said. “In LA it’s going to be head down, grinding and getting ready to play Houston. Everyone is ready to work hard.”
In training on Tuesday, RSL began integrating some of the young players to the roster, while also reintroducing Tony Beltran, Luke Mulholland and Alex Horwath to the mix after the veteran trio missed much of 2018 due to injury. In addition, the camp roster also included Real Monarchs players Jack Blake, Justin Portillo, Kalen Ryden, Andrew Brody and Maikel Chang.
RSL also got word on Tuesday that Justen Glad would be returning to training camp after not making the U.S. National Team’s 23-man roster for upcoming friendlies against Panama and Costa Rica. Forward Corey Baird remains with the U.S. squad in preparations for the first match under new Head Coach Gregg Berhalter on Sunday in Arizona.
Wednesday will feature the first double day for RSL, with a morning and afternoon session to extend the workload.