SANDY — As Real Salt Lake prepares to kick off what will be the third phase of the 2020 regular season, coach Freddy Juarez is very pleased with where the team is both from a tactical and fitness point of view.
Last Saturday, RSL held a 75-minute intersquad scrimmage to prepare for this Saturday’s match at Colorado, and the results were pretty telling about where the club is heading into another restart.
“I see six really, really tough games and I’m so happy that we’re one of the teams that gets to have some fans for those three home games,” Real Salt Lake coach Freddy Juarez
Juarez said that in talking with RSL’s sports science department, the speed and workload in the scrimmage “was a lot better than anything we did in Orlando.”
Juarez acknowledges a lot of that is likely a product of the humid weather in Orlando, but it also speaks to how hard the team has worked in the roughly four weeks since returning from the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando.
“We’ve just used these training sessions after Orlando to try and hit as much as we feel we have to improve on,” said Juarez.
The bulk of that has been in the attack, as he’s pushed his players to get more numbers going forward and get behind the defense more regularly. RSL scored four goals in four games at MLS is Back.
That approach will continue to be the focus ahead of the Rapids showdown this week, which will be the last chance RSL has for decent training sessions in the next five games.
This week’s game at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park kicks off a stretch of five games in 16 days, which Juarez said will make it difficult to get much done in between. Much of the focus will be on recovery and film sessions. An inevitable rotation of players will be necessary as well, perhaps even more so than in Orlando when RSL played four games over the same stretch of 16 games.
“Once this gets going, it gets tricky on how much of a load you can put on the guys,” said Juarez.
One thing that will help all teams deal with the extremely congested schedule is how MLS is requiring teams to travel. Juarez said Real Salt Lake will charter to its three away games, including traveling on the day of the game and returning right after the game.
It will minimize any potential COVID-19 exposure for players and staff. It’s a reality MLS teams must deal with as the season resumes outside of the bubble that was set up in Orlando.
“I think someone will always catch it on a team, but can you minimize it. It’s tough to keep it out. In the bubble it was awesome, it was planned right, you were in isolation, but now we’re in the real world. People got to go to the store. But we’re still taking our measures here and really being tight with the restrictions to hopefully control it if we get it, or try and prevent it,” said Juarez.
This weekend’s game at Colorado will be played behind closed doors.
When RSL returns to play at Rio Tinto Stadium next Wednesday against Los Angeles FC, it plans on having about 5,000 fans in attendance.
“I see six really, really tough games and I’m so happy that we’re one of the teams that gets to have some fans for those three home games,” said Juarez.