RSL returns to the pitch after MLS allows voluntary individual training

Real Salt Lake midfielder Albert Rusnak takes a penalty kick during the second half of the team's MLS soccer match against FC Cincinnati, Friday, April 19, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

When Albert Rusnák got in his car Thursday morning and started his drive to Real Salt Lake’s training facility in Herriman, things felt normal for him. It felt like any other training day during the Major League Soccer season.

But once he arrived, Rusnák realized just how abnormal the situation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic currently is. He got his temperature checked. He wore a mask up until the moment he finished lacing up his boots.

Nonetheless, he and the other RSL players who took part in the team’s first day of voluntary individual workouts were just glad to be out on the field again.

“Me personally, I was very happy to be finally on the pitch,” Rusnák said Thursday in a Zoom call with media.

MLS let teams hold training sessions on an individual and voluntary basis starting Wednesday. Four teams — Orlando City SC, Sporting Kansas City, Atlanta United and Inter Miami — held sessions on the first day. Five more teams — Houston Dynamo, LAFC, Nashville SC, Portland Timbers and RSL — started Thursday.

RSL held two sessions Thursday: the first at 9:15 a.m., the other at 10:30 a.m. The team currently has two training days scheduled per week, with two sessions per day. Rusnák said the club has a session scheduled for Friday.

The league does not have a limit on how many sessions teams can conduct.

(Photo courtesy of Real Salt Lake) Midfielder Kyle Beckerman prepares to kick the ball during an individual training session Thursday, May 7, 2020 at Zions Bank Training Center in Herriman.

RSL’s sessions were quite structured and supervised by coaches. Each player had their own quadrant of a field and went through five stations, each with a different skill and sequence. One coach guided four players.

Midfielder Damir Kreilach said he participated in the first session of the day. Teammates in his vicinity were Luis Arriaga, Douglas Martinez and Julian Vasquez. He also saw Justin Portillo, Nick Besler and Erik Holt on other parts of the field.

But Kreilach didn’t get to catch up with his fellow teammates due to how far away they were from each other, the league’s safety protocols and the actual training that went on.

“It would be great to do this but we didn’t have so much time to do this,” Kreilach said.

Rusnák said he was only able to briefly greet Justin Meram because their quadrants were next to each other.

Kreilach said he didn’t envision getting back to games before July 1, citing how different states in the country are in different phases of recovery from the coronavirus, as well as how much time the league’s players will need to be fit enough to safely play. Rusnák is hopeful that with the start of the individual sessions, games could be played a bit sooner than that.

“I think it’s moving in the right direction,” Rusnák said. “And even these small, individual trainings are a step forward.”

Kreilach agreed with Rusnák. He also said the teams getting the opportunity to hold training sessions could set an example for the rest of the league and show that getting back to full training — and, eventually, games — is possible.

“I’m looking forward to the next one,” Kreilach said.