After two days of fitness testing, Real Salt Lake rolled out the balls on the turf at the Zions Bank Training Center on Monday, giving players the first opportunity to take to the field in preparation for the 2020 MLS season.
As has been the case each season since 2008, midfielder Kyle Beckerman led the charge as the veteran and longtime captain finalized details of a new contract with the club on Monday morning just prior to opening his 14th season with the club and 21st in MLS. Retaining such a key piece to the RSL roster and a steady presence in the locker room was important to his teammates.
“It’s good to see him. Kyle is a good guy in the dressing room and he definitely contributed last season,” RSL defender Nedum Onuoha said. “The more people you have like that who fit in with the culture, it’s definitely moving the club in the right direction.”
Once on the field, RSL was off and running, quickly moving into possession drills and short-sided games. After finishing the 2019 season third in the Western Conference and reaching the Western Conference Semifinals, the players were eager to get back to the grind and reach new heights in a new season.
“It was a fresh start and you always want to do better,” Onuoha said. “Where we were last season was a very good foundation to come into this next season with the right mentality and the right people and the right ability level to maybe get to the next stage.”
Newcomers and Fresh Faces
With the lone exception of Justen Glad – who remains away with the U.S. National Team at January camp – the entire roster was in attendance at Monday’s session. While some players are easing into training camp while recovering from off-season surgeries or niggling injuries from off-season workouts, RSL also had a group on Monarchs players, Academy players and MLS SuperDraft picks to supplement the roster.
Among those in the mix were Monarchs Joe Gallardo, Taylor Peay and Steve Jasso; Chris Garcia and Christian Olivares; along with RSL’s SuperDraft selections Dayonn Harris and Michael Wetungu.
They joined a slew of newcomers – goalkeeper Zac MacMath, defender Alvin Jones and forward Milan Iloski and Maikel Chang – to provide a lively start to training camp.
“What I did like from the guys – I didn’t see anyone nervous. Which I think is a good step,” RSL Head Coach Freddy Juarez said. “No one was at their best, and they shouldn’t be, but the energy was there, the focus was there and there was no nerves. I’m happy with that, especially with the young guys because you typically have guys that don’t want to make mistakes and play timid, but I didn’t see any of that.”
More New Faces
The playing roster wasn’t the only one to see some new additions this week. RSL also added Steffen Siebert to the coaching staff and he was prevalent at the opening session. The former Springfield College head coach joins Juarez’s staff, while Matt Glaeser will now serve in a dual role as Real Monarchs Assistant Coach and RSL set-piece specialist. Also on the field for the coaching staff was Monarchs Head Coach Jamison Olave and Assistant Coach Mirza Harambasic, as well as RSL Academy Coach Cody Worden. Meanwhile, Utah Royals FC Interim Head Coach Scott Parkinson and Goalkeeping Coach Jason Batty watched on from the sidelines.
However, RSL Assistant Coach Tyrone Marshall is completing a coaching course and was not in attendance. He is slated to return ahead of Thursday’s training sessions.
Real Salt Lake returns to the field at Zions Bank Training Center for two training sessions on Tuesday as the countdown to the opening of the 25th season in Major League Soccer continues.
RSL will train in Herriman through Saturday before departing for the second leg of camp in Phoenix, Arizona.