Sandy • Marcelo Silva lay flat on his back, hands behind his head, and felt the sun beaming down on his face as he tried to catch his breath.
"Bienvenidos," Nick Rimando called from the goal.
Welcome. Welcome to the altitude, welcome to 100-degree heat, welcome to Salt Lake City.
It has been two weeks since Silva's first training session with Real Salt Lake, when the center back found his fitness was no match for the elements. Since then, the summer acquisition's adjustment has gone smoothly, and he is expected to make his MLS debut against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday.
"For me it's been great because I wake up every day and I have the desire to come to practice and to be able to play," Silva said through a translator. "I'm very happy to be on this team and in this city. As a soccer player that's something that you need and something that you want: that desire, that drive."
RSL announced the signing of the 6-foot-2 Uruguayan defender on July 3. So far in training and his first appearance with the team in Monday's Manchester United friendly he has not disappointed.
"We've seen improvements every day for him, absolutely," coach Mike Petke said. "… He's showing improvements physically, he's adapted very well, and it's great to have him in here. Having a fresh face with experience like him has been great for the team."
The 28-year-old center back came to RSL from Spain, where he spent much of the past eight years of his professional career. Silva joined Almeria in 2010 and played two years in La Liga and two in La Liga 2 with them.
From there he went to Las Palmas, Real Valladolid and Real Zaragoza in Spain's second division.
Silva also played for his home country's U-20 national team, started his professional career with the Uruguayan team Danubio and spent part of 2012 on loan to Peñarol in Uruguay's first tier league.
"I got his name and started watching him," RSL scout Dane Murphy said, "and at first I wrote back because he was playing in the second division in Spain, but had played in La Liga and he was a little bit older. … I said, 'Are you sure that he fits in our price range?' "
He did, and RSL moved quickly to seal the deal.
As with all transitions between leagues, Silva will have to adapt to the style of MLS. Petke said he hopes he will bring some of the Spanish game with him, though, namely the Spaniards' emphasis on building from the back.
"Every team has a different style of play," Silva said, "but I try to do my best to pay attention and to grasp what the coach wants me to do so that I can learn and be able to perform. Whatever style he wants me to play, I'll be ready for that."
With a coveted combination of both size and technical ability, perhaps the biggest hurtle Silva has had to jump has been his conditioning.
"It's natural," defender Chris Wingert said last week. "If I leave for a couple weeks I have a hard time, so I can't imagine coming here for the first time. But that'll change quickly as we all know, just getting used to it."
On top of playing at this altitude for the first time, Silva had recently wrapped up the season in Spain when he joined RSL. For Europe, this is preseason. For Silva, it's already time to be in midseason shape.
In RSL's friendly with Manchester United on Monday, Silva's form passed its first test. He subbed on in the 32nd minute with the second group and remained on the pitch for the rest of the game.
With three matches scheduled this week, Petke kept Silva out of the match at Portland on Wednesday.
"He still wasn't 100 percent fully fit," Petke said. "The game was on turf, which he's not used to, so we figured that if he played in the Portland game then he wouldn't probably be available for the Kansas City game, and if he was in the Portland game he really wouldn't play much in the Man. United game.
"So the mindset was to get two games in a week: 60 minutes against Man. U to really get his fitness up, we were confident going into Portland with who we had, and now he's available to play 90 minutes against Kansas City if we choose to go that direction."
At training Friday, Silva ran around with some spring in his step. Lying down wasn't on the agenda.