Real Salt Lake making strides as preseason hits the midpoint

Herriman • After delays in Seattle due to inclement weather put a wrench into the beginning of Real Salt Lake’s preseason trip to Arizona, the team returned to its home training facility for two days of work.

The team opted to have an extended training session Wednesday to build off what they accomplished in Hawaii, where RSL went 1-1 in the Pacific Rim Cup. While the team would have liked to win both games, it got plenty out of its time in the islands.

RSL head coach Mike Petke said the first Japanese team, Iwaki FC, caused some problems for the team, pressuring them and exhibiting their elite fitness due to its long preseason schedule. But that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“It was great because that’s we needed this early in preseason — while we’re still getting our fitness and getting our movements right — to have a team like that just pressed incredibly,” Petke said.

RSL won 2-1 over Iwaki FC, but lost 3-1 to V-Varen Nagasaki in the tournament final. The team, however, is not worried about wins and losses in the preseason. Its main focus at this stage is putting together all the aspects of its game.

After two games, some things are beginning to take shape for RSL, veteran right back Tony Beltran said.

“I think stylistically, things are starting to come to fruition, particularly the way we want to defend, where we want to defend on field, and then our movement in attack,” Beltran said. “The fluidity from day to day, from game to game, has gotten better.”

Petke said after the first two games of preseason, team learned lessons about itself both on the field and off it. He liked the way his players stayed composed despite poor field conditions, and how they forced they issue building out of their back four under pressure from the opposing team.

“Just the fact that the mentality, they stayed with it and kept pushing it,” Petke said. “There were some good build-ups, but we got caught a couple of times and that’s expected.”

Real will spend one more day in Utah before traveling back to Arizona for the rest of their preseason schedule. Thursday’s game against the New York Red Bulls was cancelled, but RSL will still play Saturday’s game against Phoenix Rising FC.

Missing players

Jordan Allen has still not reported to RSL for the 2019 season. Head coach Mike Petke has said in the past that he was been given time away from the team for “personal reasons.” Allen’s status has remained unchanged since late January.

When asked at what point Petke expects Allen back with the team, he replied: “Not ready to comment on that. As soon as we have an update on that, we’ll let you know. Definitely, promise.”

Albert Rusnák was also not on the field during Wednesday’s training session. He appeared to knock knees with a defender during the second game in Hawaii and left the field briefly before returning.

But Petke said Rusnák is “fine” physically and only suffered a “Charlie horse” while playing the second-most minutes on the team in that game.

“That didn’t affect him at all,” Petke said.