Any MLS coach will tell you they structure their six-week preseason to ensure their players are fit and ready for the season opener.
Real Salt Lake coach Mike Petke said there’s no way to structure preseason perfectly either, but, regardless, he was pleased with how his players competed for 90 minutes against an FC Dallas team that already had two CONCACAF Champions League games under its belt before the season opener.
“From a standpoint of, if you put everything together for the Dallas game, where they are as far as their CCL games and being a little bit more fit and how we wanted to approach the game, overall I’m happy with the performance,” said Petke, whose team earned a 1-1 result in Dallas.
RSL did have to make two second-half substitutions because of muscle cramps to both Jefferson Savarino and Demar Phillips, but that’s to be expected in any game in Dallas.
The team’s fitness will continue to get better in the coming weeks, and captain Kyle Beckerman said picking up points on the road regardless of the circumstances is always a positive.
“As you see in the history of this league, not many teams go to another place and look great and win the game. I thought there were a lot of positives, of course we always want to look to get better, but we put ourselves in a position we could’ve won the game. Didn’t turn out that way, but a lot of things to build off of,” said Beckerman.
Real Salt Lake’s starters weren’t the only ones improving their fitness last Saturday.
A few hours before RSL took the field in Dallas, six of its players were in Sacramento playing a preseason game with the Real Monarchs against Sacramento State.
In a preseason game that featured four 30-minute halves, Brooks Lennon, Pablo Ruiz, Jose Hernandez, Nick Besler, Corey Baird and Connor Sparrow all played 60 minutes.
Lennon scored a pair of goals on assists from Ruiz to spearhead the 4-0 preseason win.
“We wanted those players to match us in 90 minutes so that when they’re called up, which could be as early as this week coming up, they’re not behind the 8-ball fitness-wise and sharpness-wise,” said Petke. “They can practice all they want, but there’s nothing like getting on a 120 by 75 field and playing for 90 minutes.”
Lennon and Ruiz were back with Real Salt Lake at Tuesday’s training session as the team prepares for this Saturday’s home opener against expansion Los Angeles FC.
LAFC was one of the surprise winners in the opening weekend of the 2018 MLS season as it prevailed at Seattle, 1-0.