After 18 days of an entirely new experience — training with the senior national team — Justen Glad, Danilo Acosta and Brooks Lennon returned to Arizona, where their playing careers together began.
The trio rejoined Real Salt Lake in Tucson last week, when the team set up a little over an hour’s drive from Casa Grande, the former site of the RSL Academy. Glad, Acosta and Lennon missed the first week of RSL preseason for U.S. national team January camp, all receiving their first senior team call-ups.
“Being with the national team was new because most of the guys that were in camp I had never played with or met,” Lennon said. “So that was a great experience being with such a great group of guys. Everyone was so nice and obviously quality players. And then coming back to, this feels like home now, with most of the guys, and we have a couple new ones, but we’re kind of building a family here.”
Lennon and Glad also literally call Arizona home. Lennon grew up in Paradise Valley, and Glad in Tucson. They’ve both been able to catch up with friends and family since arriving. Acosta, who was born in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and grew up in Sandy, got the chance to reconnect with former Academy teammates.
Said Glad: “It’s an awesome experience just because they don’t get to see me play in Utah, there’s not really an opportunity for them to come see me play in person. So this is it, you know? They get to come and support and see it firsthand as opposed to watching it on TV.”
A sense of nostalgia came with the trip to Tucson, especially playing at the Kino Sports Complex, which they had visited during their academy days, Acosta said.
That was a stark contrast to January camp, where the RSL players had faced the majority of their new USMNT teammates in MLS competition before but were officially meeting most of them for the first time.
There were 10 players, including Acosta, Glad and Lennon, making their first appearances in USMNT camp.
“I think it made it easier not being the sole guy who was new,” Glad said. “I had a lot of people who were in the exact same position.”
The United States dressed 20 players for the match against Bosnia and Herzegovina at the end of camp. The three RSL call-ups said they were disappointed they didn’t make the final roster but optimistic for the future.
“It just motivates me even more to come back over here and work a lot harder,” Acosta said, “so when the [next] opportunity comes, instead of me being in the stadium watching the game from the stands I’ll be playing in it.”
RSL is scheduled to take on the San Jose Earthquakes Wednesday at 10:30 a.m., concluding the Tucson leg of preseason. The game will be available via live stream on the team website.
“The other day the real focus was defense because that’s what we worked on all week,” RSL coach Mike Petke said of the team objectives in last Saturday’s match against the L.A. Galaxy. “Tomorrow I think will be more of a mixture of defense and attack.”
Real Salt Lake will return to Utah briefly before heading to Orlando for the final week and a half of preseason.