Real Salt Lake kicks off training camp with short day, talks goals of improvement. But the real work starts in L.A.

Alex Gallivan | Special to the Tribune Real Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman (5 ) during warmup for the Western Conference semifinals matchup against the Sporting Kansas City Sun Nov 04, 2018

Herriman • They’re back.

Real Salt Lake officially opened training camp for the 2019 season Monday, marking the start of a campaign during which the team has one goal in mind: be better than last year.

While improvement is a simple concept, it can take many forms. Last season, RSL went on an impressive run in the playoffs, despite needing some help to qualify. The season before, it missed the postseason.

Real also took pride in how any minutes some of its youngest signees played. Corey Baird won Rookie of the Year, and players such as Brooks Lennon and Aaron Herrera established themselves as regular contributors in the starting 11.

Several players gave their thoughts on what improvement would look like, but no one as specific, or bold, as recently re-signed midfielder Luke Mulholland.

“I think our goal this year is to finish as high up as possible so that we can get in to the (CONCACAF) Champions League as well for next year,” Mulholland said.

Monday’s session, which consisted of only a few fitness tests, was the first step toward that goal. Coach Mike Petke had a brief meeting with the team where he discussed “basic parameters.” The team on Tuesday will travel to Los Angeles, where Petke said he will have a more in-depth meeting with the group.

“Today was just setting the groundwork, little bit of expectations and just welcoming them back,” Petke said, adding that the real work starts in L.A.

RSL opens the regular season March 2 at Houston, before hosting Vancouver on March 9 in its home opener

Petke wants to see a each player on the roster show that they are ready to “take the next step,” he said. For veteran Kyle Beckerman, that means becoming a more consistent team both at home and on the road.

“We got a lot of work to do,” Beckerman said. “Just because what we did the past couple of years [and] got this experience doesn’t guarantee us anything this year. We gotta put in that work and hopefully the results will come with that.”

Albert Rusnák, who signed a new contract prior to the end of last season, said the team’s goal is to make the playoffs and finish as close to the top of the conference as possible. In the new MLS playoff format, the higher-seeded teams earns home-field advantage.

Veteran goalkeeper Nick Rimando said he felt excited for the start of this season in particular because RSL came close to making the Western Conference Finals last year.

“I think we have a lot in our tank right now and some of the guys got a taste of what it’s like to go a little bit further in the playoffs,” Rimando said.

Not everyone on the roster reported to the first day of training camp. Corey Baird and Justen Glad are still at camp with the United States Men’s National Team, and Everton Luiz — who was picked up on loan in the offseason — has yet to obtain the paperwork required to join the team.

The curious omission was Jordan Allen, who did not play a game last season due to an injury. Petke said Allen was given “an excused day,” and did not elaborate further.

Monarchs name new head coach

The Real Monarchs named Martín Vasquez as the new head coach for the team, the club announced Monday.

“I’m very grateful for such an amazing opportunity to join the Monarchs after eight years with the RSL Academy,” Vasquez said in a news release. “My time with the players within the RSL Academy both past and present has helped me immensely. … I’m here to win with the Monarchs while continuing to help develop our players and help them reach the next level.”

Vasquez was previously the director of the RSL Academy since 2011. He has coached with the L.A. Galaxy, Chivas USA, Bayern Munich and the United States Men’s National Team.

Former Monarchs coach Mark Briggs resigned in August after domestic violence charges against him were dropped. He was suspended in May when the allegations surfaced.

Jamison Olave, who was named the interim head coach after Briggs resigned, will stay on as an assistant with the Monarchs. RSL will begin a “global search” for a new academy director, per the release.