It seems like everybody has a fire lit under them, it seems like everybody feels this could be a special. – Chad Barrett

SANDY — Chad Barrett is a 13-year MLS veteran who’s experienced just about everything both good and bad with his six previous clubs.

Now with Real Salt Lake, the first impression of his new team following the first phase of the preseason last week in Arizona was terrific.

“It seems like everybody has a fire lit under them, it seems like everybody feels this could be a special year,” said Barrett. “ I haven’t had that feeling probably since — to be honest — not even Seattle. I’d probably say it was in LA. In Seattle we had a good group, but we had so many stars on that team we kind of let them do some of their magic sometimes.”

Barrett said that during his two seasons in L.A. from 2011 to 2012 the locker room was really tight and there was a great work ethic amongst the group.

“It didn’t matter who you were, you showed up at practice and if you didn’t put in the work, people let you know about that,” said Barrett, who said that’s the impression he’s received so far with RSL.

“Nobody’s afraid to say something on this team, and that’s the type of team I want to be a part of because I like to be held accountable and I’m going to hold everybody else accountable as well.”

Real Salt Lake heads to Portland on Tuesday for the next phase of the preseason as it works toward the season opener on March 4. Coach Jeff Cassar is excited to build on what he said was a great foundation established during the first 12 days of the preseason in Phoenix and Tucson.

“The intensity of the training sessions was off the charts, the way the guys competed in each activity has really set the tone for how we’re going to be this year,” said Cassar.

He said that intensity came from both the veterans and young guys, which is one of the things that stood out most to Barrett.

“A lot of times you come to a team and it’s never like 1 thru 28, everyone’s in shape. Every is ready to go (here),” he said.

The absence of Javier Morales around the practice field was obvious in Arizona, but Cassar said collectively everyone is chipping in to fill that leadership role and his quality on the field.

On the field, newcomer Albert Rusnak is expected to fill a huge part of that void, and Cassar said there were flashes of that potential during the handful of training sessions.

“He’s only 22 years old but he conducts himself like a man. Obviously, he’s played at big clubs and played in big tournaments, but his soccer IQ is fantastic. He’s able to speed up the game when it needs to, he’s able to slow it down,” said Cassar.

Cassar was really impressed with the combination play between Rusnak, Joao Plata, Jordan Allen and Yura Movsisyan and is excited to see how it progresses at the Portland Timbers Preseason Tournament.

RSL faces Portland on Thursday, Vancouver on Sunday and then expansion Minnesota next Wednesday.