On Saturday, Real Salt Lake concluded the first leg of preseason training camp on the campus of UCLA in Los Angeles. The seven sessions over five days was capped with a scrimmage against the Pateadores U-19 Academy, which saw RSL score three goals without conceding any.
With the first leg in the books, Head Coach Mike Petke established the direction in the early stages of preseason and set expectations for the remaining weeks before the season opener on March 2 on the road against the Houston Dynamo.
“From the first day, we tried to set a tone. Since I’ve been here, every year it’s been raised a little bit. The coaching staff and I really wanted to raise the bar as far as the culture, surroundings and attitudes,” Petke said. “It’s been a great first week. We’ve combined it with a lot of video, a lot of expectations, and then getting out on the field and putting the work in.”
RSL opened camp in Utah on Monday with fitness testing at the Zions Bank Training Center. With a baseline established, Petke and his staff was able to extend the workload in the UCLA training sessions because the players came into camp ready to hit the ground running.
“We actually pushed them this week a little harder than I expected to and thought we would, but they were eager to keep going,” Petke said. “Once you get into the tactics and you have to also add in the fitness level, sometimes it’s not easy to accomplish both. It came down to them putting the work in and us being able to push them a little more.”
As the team progresses through camp and more elements of Petke’s vision for the 2019 season are introduced and implemented, the bonds between players grows stronger. Already, the cohesion is evident on the field as RSL returns a large majority of the core of 2018’s Western Conference Semifinal team while also adding key players. With a good mix of veterans and youth, the on- and off-field unity is a welcome sight for the staff.
“It’s only a week right now, but guys are really showing a willingness to come together really early in preseason. A lot of teams that I’ve been on, it takes a while to do that,” Petke said. “They have great attitudes, the guys have had a great first week.”
RSL returns to Utah over the weekend and will resume training in Herriman for a week before the next road trip to Honolulu for a pair of matches. That trip will extend into late February with a trip to Tucson, Arizona for four more matches before the season starts.