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Eager Real Salt Lake thrilled to be back at full-team training for the first time in 3 months

RSL spent the past month doing individual and small-group training, but Monday MLS gave it the go-ahead to start full-team training with Orlando tournament three weeks away

Real Salt Lake midfielder Damir Kreilach (6) celebrates with teammates after scoring RSL’s first goal of the first half as Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids play at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, July 21, 2018.
Real Salt Lake midfielder Damir Kreilach (6) celebrates with teammates after scoring RSL’s first goal of the first half as Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids play at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, July 21, 2018.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

HERRIMAN — For roughly 90 minutes on Monday morning, there was a normalcy for Real Salt Lake as players and coaches came together and actually practiced.

Everyone still tried to keep their distance when possible, but for the first time in three months everyone was together training and competing with a tangible goal in front of them — Major League Soccer’s return in Orlando beginning July 8.

“It was just a lot of fun. I think everybody had a ton of fun out there competing and being able to play more of a soccer-style game,” said RSL captain Kyle Beckerman.

Monday was by no means the first time players have seen each other. They’ve been participating in optional individual workouts at team facilities since May 7 and then small group training since May 30. All the work players put in over the past month — and in the two months prior from home — made for a training session that went better than expected.

“They looked good. We had a conversation after the session with the coaching staff, and we thought they looked better (than) how they did in preseason coming back, so that speaks volumes to the things that we’ve been doing as a staff and supporting staff,” said RSL assistant coach Tyrone Marshall.

The coaching staff tried to get players as many touches on the ball as possible, similar to what they would do in a normal Monday training session. The coaches put the players through a couple of possession drills and then ended practice with an 8v8 round-robin tournament.

Marshall said the camaraderie throughout was great.

Damir Kreilach said the level of competition was pretty high for the first session in three months, a great sign players were diligent with their workouts since MLS suspended play back on March 12.

Just as the competition was really ramping up on Monday, the coaches shut things down to keep the training session under 90 minutes.

“The boys, they’re buzzing just to be back on the field. You can see the excitement. They don’t want to leave the pitch. You have to usher them off the field, say ‘Hey guys, get out of here, there’s another day. We’ll come back tomorrow and get at it again,’” said Marshall.

As players departed the field at the conclusion practice, they kept their distance and put masks on when interacting together.

On Tuesday, perhaps they’ll be given more time to compete and sharpen up for the season’s restart in the MLS is Back Tournament.

Just as important though, Marshall said RSL needs to follow the practice protocols that have been put in place by MLS.

“We want to be good citizens, and we want to make sure we get through this process and get to Orlando in good health and everyone’s being able to get on the pitch. We’re trying to follow the protocols as best we can,” said Marshall.

RSL is paired with Colorado, Kansas City and Minnesota in Group D of the World Cup-style tournament.

“It makes for an exciting tournament. I think there’s rivalry all over in every group. It should make for an exciting tournament,” said Beckerman, who is in his 21st season in MLS.

Beckerman said there’s naturally a little apprehension about starting the season in Orlando, especially with rising new numbers of COVID-19 cases in Florida reported over the past week.

“We’re putting a lot of trust in the league to make sure we’re going to be safe and healthy, and if something does happen we’ll have the proper care to handle that. We’re going into a place and state that doesn’t seem to have the virus under control at this moment, so that’s a little concerning,” he said.

Real Salt Lake hasn’t announced the date it will report to Orlando yet, but teams can start arriving on June 24.

Kreilach’s wife is due with the couple’s second child on July 3, and on Monday Kreilach said he and his wife are speaking with the family doctor about perhaps trying to induce the birth a bit earlier. He acknowledged family is the priority, but is optimistic the timetable can be moved up so he can help his growing family get comfortably set up back home before rejoining RSL in Orlando before the first game.