Real Salt Lake concludes its preseason trip to Arizona on Saturday evening with a matchup with the LA Galaxy (6 p.m. MT, KSL TV app). That match at Kino North Stadium in Tucson will put the wraps on what has been a successful 10 days of training and matches in the Arizona sun.
After a pair of a shutout victories over the Colorado Rapids and Phoenix Rising, RSL Head Coach Freddy Juarez was even happier with the progress the team has made in building towards the 2021 MLS regular season opener on April 24 on the road against Minnesota United FC.
“It’s been a good trip. We got to play against an MLS opponent and one of the best teams in USL that allows us to see what we’ve been working on and backs up what we’ve been teaching. And it’s shown us areas where we need to grow,” Juarez said. “The most important thing is that the things we’ve been working on, we’ve seen a lot of positives come from that and we’ve seen the group apply it on the field. There’s also a better understanding for the individual and the collective.”
RSL has run out two separate groups in the two matches, with four of the club’s six players who were away on international duty starting in the second match against Phoenix. Integrating those six players after being away for several weeks Olympic Qualifying and World Cup Qualifying has added to the depth of the roster. While they were away, other players took advantage of the opportunities to shine.
“The more competition and depth we have, the better we are all going to be,” Juarez said. “There is more depth with quality and guys who can make a difference and that’s important.”
In Saturday’s match against the LA Galaxy, it will be the final test for the team to gauge their level and find any further areas that need improvement before the regular season opens in two weeks.
Because of the incremental progress thus far and the success in implementation of the team’s principles, Juarez isn’t looking for anything dramatic in the final preseason match to feel like the squad is ready to kick off the season. Instead, it is just continued growth in the areas of focus in training throughout training camp.
“We want to continue to see what we have been seeing. What we are very excited about with the group is the ability to defend together, the ability to press out and recover the ball, the organization on attack in getting forward and getting in behind the opponent,” he said. “We’ve added this reaction after the loss of possession that has allowed us to take more risks because we are transitioning into a good defensive position. That has allowed us to become more unpredictable and dangerous in the attack.”
RSL will return to Utah following the match and resume training in preparation for the start of the 2021 season.