Sandy • Fans packed inside the small roped-off portion of America First Field Tuesday morning weathering a cold and blustery April day. The south-side sideline was filled with spectators — not just for another day of training — but for Real Salt Lake’s reserve squad, which kicked off its 2014 campaign against Chivas USA.
Tuesday was a showcase of first-team players as well as RSL’s Arizona-based Academy players, who were called up for the reserve-league match that ended in an eventual 1-1 draw. Youngsters Fito Ovalle, Jose Hernandez, Corey Baird and Sebastian Saucedo saw time in the draw. Ovalle, who grew up in Layton, went 90 minutes in the draw playing in the midfield and at right back for RSL, while Baird and Park City’s Saucedo eventually subbed in late in the second half.
It was also the head coaching debut — although he wouldn’t necessarily call it that — for RSL assistant and former player Andy Williams.
"For the most part, these games are for the guys who don’t get to play a lot, so to get some of these guys 90 minutes work in, working on their craft, get a little more fit … but [the goal] is just play the way we play," Williams said afterward. "Hopefully we win these games, but most of all, guys get minutes out of it and just enjoy it."
Forward Devon Sandoval went 90 against the Chivas USA reserves, scoring RSL’s lone goal in the 42nd minute of play. Midfielder Sebastian Velasquez had space to roam in the attack outside the Chivas box and found a streaking Abdoulie Mansally down the left wing. The defender sent a cross into Sandoval, who buried it into the net.
Six minutes after halftime, Chivas equalized.
Forward Caleb Calvert found the back of the net on a scramble inside the box after RSL’s back line struggled to close down space and eventually clear the ball inside the penalty area.
It was goalkeeper Jeff Attinella who kept the match knotted 1-1 in the 66th minute. Ovalle took down a Chivas player in the box, resulting in an awarded penalty kick, but Attinella dove to his left and stopped Martin Rivero’s attempt.
Williams said he thought RSL was spread out in the second half against Chivas, adding that "more of the senior guys need to take control of the game at times."
He moved Carlos Salcedo, who started opposite Aaron Maund on the back line Tuesday, to RSL’s holding spot in its diamond midfield formation to make way for Kwame Watson-Siriboe. The RSL defender has continually worked to get back after suffering an ACL tear last summer. He went 45 minute against Chivas USA after playing in 30-minute stretches here and there in the preseason.
Watson-Siriboe said the most difficult part of returning to live play isn’t so much reading the game, but working on the timeliness of his reactions during actual games, not just in training.
"That’s going to be your test to actually play, and play as much as you can," he said Tuesday. "In the back of your mind when you’re returning from a serious injury, you sometimes hesitate in training and not go 100 percent. Games give you no choice."
The 27-year-old said now that RSL’s reserve league has started, the effectiveness of playing in games could help speed his recovery process along.
"It’s about perfecting your skills and getting back to what got you here," Watson-Siriboe said. "It will come."
The RSL reserves return to action on May 18 when they face the Colorado Rapids reserve team at 11 a.m. at America First Field in Sandy.
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