The players gathered at Zions Bank Real Academy on Monday night ranged from members of the U-17 Real Salt Lake Academy squad to first-team veterans.
The scrimmage, which wrapped up the Herriman leg of RSL preseason camp, was set up to give first-team members game-like minutes before heading to Tuscon, Ariz. It achieved that, while also serving as the physical representation of the continuity throughout the organization.
“We want to be fully aligned from our Academy straight up to the first team playing virtually the same,” RSL coach Mike Petke said after training Thursday. “If not anything [else], the same objectives, the same characteristics.”
The organization is well aware that not every Academy player will end up on the first team, so Academy coaches teach their players a wider variety of styles and formations, Petke said.
“But when you get to the Monarchs and the first team,” he said, “they have to be fully aligned.”
Staying in Utah for the first week of preseason allowed RSL to train with almost the entire Real Monarchs squad. RSL’s USL affiliate officially opens preseason on Feb. 5.
It’s not just the men’s side either. Utah Royals FC coach Laura Harvey, who has to wait until Feb. 19 for NWSL training camps to open, worked with RSL during the first leg of preseason.
“She’s a part of the family now, under the RSL umbrella,” Petke said. “I’ve enjoyed my conversations with her. I enjoy talking tactics with her.”
Harvey’s style of play — balanced, with a focus on possession — also aligns with RSL’s vision, which was one of the reasons RSL general manager Craig Waibel cited for her hire in November.
With that sort of consistency throughout the organization, it was only fitting that RSL’s sendoff was a scrimmage with the Academy.
Several Academy players will also travel with RSL to Tucson to train with the team for the second leg of preseason camp. The team has not disclosed which players will be included.
“In order to know if these kids, these players are ready to be professionals — truly know — we have to see them in our environment,” Waibel said. “… So having the academy here — and you’ll start seeing it more and more — those players will start training with the second team, with the first team.”
RSL signs Alex Horwath
The Salt Lake Tribune has learned that Real Salt Lake has filled its third goalkeeper spot.
Alex Horwath has signed with Real Salt Lake, league sources told The Tribune, but the recent birth of Horwath’s child delayed his arrival at preseason camp.
Horwath, 30, returns to the United States after four years in Sweden and Norway. A product of the D.C. United youth squad, Horwath’s professional career in the U.S. included one MLS appearance for the New York Red Bulls in 2011.
The other goalkeepers on RSL’s roster are Nick Rimando and Connor Sparrow.
Sunday Stephen, who reported to preseason training late, has arrived in Utah. He spent the past few days running with the strength and conditioning coach twice a day and will soon be integrated into training, Petke said.
“It’s not a punishment whatsoever,” Petke said. “It’s the fact that we had a fitness test and he was not here for one reason or another.”