RSL’s Freddy Juarez pleased with how entire roster contributed in MLS is Back opening win
Juarez said the sparing team has forced RSL’s starters to raise their level in every training session the past couple weeks
SALT LAKE CITY — Immediately after Real Salt Lake’s win over Colorado on Sunday night, and then again Wednesday in a Zoom call with the media, coach Freddy Juarez attributed success to the sparing team.
He said there’s no “B” team in training sessions, there’s the tentative starting group and the sparing, or reserves, group. Following Sunday’s 2-0 win over the Rapids, he heaped as much praise on the sparing group as the starters.
“We have had some very, very combative and close match games within our intrasquad (scrimmages) and any success we got today was from our sparing team ’cause guys were pushing the envelope and pushing the pace.” — RSL coach Freddy Juarez
“We have had some very, very combative and close match games within our intrasquad (scrimmages) and any success we got today was from our sparing team ’cause guys were pushing the envelope and pushing the pace,” said Juarez.
Again Tuesday night in Orlando as RSL prepares for Friday’s next group game in the MLS is Back Tournament, Juarez said the intensity in practice was top-notch. After practice, Juarez said he heard players talking about how they hadn’t seen that much energy in a practice in a long time.
That intensity is forcing players to fight even harder for playing time.
Douglas Martinez was on the sparing team during many of the training sessions leading up to the Colorado match, but ended up getting the starting nod. After watching Martinez force RSL’s starting defenders to work extra hard each practice to prepare for the game, Juarez decided to make Colorado’s defenders feel that pressure.
The scenario of backups pushing starters for playing time happens at every club in the world, but Juarez said the way his team has dealt with it during the restart has been noteworthy.
“Our guys have been true professionals. Whoever isn’t starting has embraced the role, they’ve pushed. I think part of it has to do there’s an excitement, we’ve been out of soccer so long so everyone is so happy to get going again. That’s 100% been what has pushed us. Everyone is lively, everyone is pushing, everyone knows they can contribute to the team one way or the other,” said Juarez.
Sixteen of RSL’s 28 players in Orlando contributed Sunday, and Juarez will likely dive further into the roster in the club’s remaining two group matches against Minnesota on Friday and Kansas City next Wednesday.
Defender Aaron Herrera addressed the media in Wednesday’s Zoom call as well, and said there was nothing surprising about the way RSL controlled the match for large stretches against rival Colorado.
“Everything you saw us doing well in the game is what we were doing well in the past couple weeks of training. It was nice being able to use everything we’ve been working on sort of on a different opponent instead of just playing each other week in and week out,” said Herrera.
Training sessions the past couple weeks have had a very blue-collar feel to them as players worked on increasing their fitness and fighting for playing team. Herrera said that approach paid dividends against Colorado, which he noted is a similar blue-collar team.
Maintaining the high standard of those training sessions throughout the MLS is Back Tournament will be key for RSL to try and duplicate Sunday’s performance going forward.