HERRIMAN — It was far from ideal, but Thursday was a great day for Real Salt Lake’s players.
Eight weeks after MLS shutdown because of COVID-19, RSL players were allowed to return to the training fields on Thursday for voluntary individual workouts, and by all accounts attendance was great despite the very restrictive conditions.
Players weren’t allowed to enter the team facilities and had to arrive dressed ready to train. They were required to have their temperature checked upon arriving and keep a mask on until they were in their sectioned-off quadrant on a field and ready to train. RSL had three fields divided into fourths, and the distance prevented pretty much any social interaction.
Damir Kreilach said it was great to be out there nonetheless.
“After two months to be the first time on the field, it was great. We did technical stuff, some conditioning stuff with the ball, some sprints. It was a decent tempo, high level, so every one of us was very, very happy to be back on the field with other teammates. It will be good to do more sessions per week but it was the first step and now we have to take care and go step by step forward.”
Kreilach was in the first group of 10 players who reported at 9:15 a.m. on Thursday for the concise one-hour session that sure beat kicking the ball around the garage.
The coaching staff had different drills set up in the four quadrants, and after a 15-minute warmup Kreilach said the players rotated through the four stations twice.
“At the end of the training, every one of us was happy to be there and do some work with the ball. I’m looking forward to the next one. It’s a great step forward,” Kreilach said.
Individual workouts are the only thing players are permitted to do until May 16, after which small group training might be approved.
Kreilach has no inside info on when MLS games might return, but considering how some cities have been hit much harder by COVID-19 than others — and knowing MLS will make it fair and give every team three to four weeks of full training in the buildup to the 2020 restart — RSL’s midfielder said he’d be surprised if the season started before July 1.
With a baby due the first week of July, it has the makings of being a very festive Fourth of July week in the Kreilach household after a very relaxed four months prior.
Kreilach said the silver lining amid the pandemic has been the opportunity to spend more time at home with his wife and 3-year-old daughter during what is usually a very busy time of year.
Albert Rusnak echoed that sentiment but admitted he’s anxious to get back on the field.
“It’s really only the days off that you get to be with them all day, and right now I feel like we’ve had six weeks of days off. We’ve been so much at home I’m actually ready to get to the trainings every day,” said Rusnak.
When the season does resume, there’s a chance the match will be played behind closed doors, which Rusnak has mixed feelings about.
“It’s a mixture of feelings. It’s a mixture of in an ideal world, you have the fans, you play normal, and then on the other side right now we don’t have the fans and we’re not playing. Definitely to start with it will be somewhere in the middle and hopefully by the time comes December the situation will be completely different and we’ll be hoping the new season will start normal again,” said Rusnak.
RSL players will have voluntary workouts at the RSL Academy again on Friday, and an individual workout out at home on Saturday. As for what next week brings, RSL’s players are excited to have a narrow sliver of light to look forward to about an MLS return.