SANDY — Once live sports return and Real Salt Lake is finally able to march on the field again, Real Salt Lake coach Freddy Juarez said it’s going to be quite the spectacle.
In a Zoom conference with local media members on Tuesday, Juarez reiterated several times how hungry his players are to get back on the field. That thirst for competition is what Juarez believes may be the lasting impact from the unprecedented sports shutdown.
“The common theme of everyone is, ‘I can’t wait to get started.’ They’re bored,” said Juarez, who said he believes everyone’s love for the game will be stronger than ever when MLS returns.
Juarez has absolutely no idea when that day will come, but the coaching staff and players are staying busy to be ready when it does.
The coaching staff has been busy putting together detailed scouting reports on every team in the Western Conference by analyzing the first two games of the season in early March. When that’s done, Juarez said everyone will move on to Eastern Conference teams.
Each coach has been assigned specific teams, and they’ve been tasked with a tactical plan on how RSL will approach those matches.
That advanced planning will be imperative as MLS has expressed a desire to keep its 34-game schedule despite its current two-month suspension — and perhaps longer.
To accommodate such an ambitious plan, it seems inevitable the season will be extended into November in addition to numerous midweek games throughout the season.
The compacted schedule will inevitably test the depth of everyone’s roster, which Juarez feels comfortable with.
“We’re happy with the depth we have, we’re happy with the young legs we have and we’re hoping that gives us a lot of advantage,” said Juarez.
Thirteen players on RSL’s 31-man roster are under 25 years old.
Regardless of the age of the players, Juarez said he hopes the league gives teams at least three weeks of a mini preseason to prepare for the 2020 restart. Otherwise, he said injuries will be inevitable especially with all the likely midweek games.
During the week or so after MLS announced its suspension on March 12, Juarez said the coaching staff tried not to burden the players too much as they became acclimated to their changing lifestyles. Last week the players and coaches held their first Zoom conference call and the Juarez said the spirits were very high.
“When we did the Zoom meeting the other day, you could see smiles on guys’ faces, and the banter, and you could see everyone’s face come up,” said Juarez.
“The pysche from the younger player to the oldest is they understand the importance of staying away from situations, and being careful, and the distancing.”
On Monday, RSL had a strength and conditioning Zoom meeting, and on Thursday they’ll have a tactical Zoom meeting to remind the players about the principles from the preseason so everyone can hit the ground running — whenever that long-awaited day finally arrives.