Laser Luke was at it again Saturday.
Starting at left midfield with Real Salt Lake's "A" squad in the final training camp scrimmage in Bradenton, Fla., rookie Luke Kreamalmeyer set-up goals by Clint Mathis and Jason Kreis to lead RSL to a 3-1 victory over a U.S. adult amateur team.
"We possessed it most of the first half despite making a few tweaks because of injury precautions," said RSL coach John Ellinger.
Salt Lake's third goal was also scored in the first half as Mathis played a ball over the top to Dipsy Selalwane, who then beat the keeper one-on-one for his first goal of training camp.
With regular attacking midfielder Andy Williams away at Gold Cup qualifying with the Jamaican National Team, Mathis dropped back into Williams position and played well, according to Ellinger, with a goal and an assist. Saturday's scrimmage was the last for Mathis with Salt Lake as he'll be with the U.S. National Team until March 31 just two days before the RSL's inaugural regular-season game in New York.
Ellinger held central defender Brian Dunseth out of the game as a precaution because of a sore knee. Rookie Cameron Knowles, obtained in the supplemental draft, started in his place and played well alongside Nelson Akwari, Rusty Pierce and Matt Behncke.
Salt Lake's reserves entered the game in the second half and surrendered a goal.
After putting the raps on the first three week's of his first MLS training camp as a head coach, Ellinger said he's comfortable with the direction of the team.
"The progress was good. The first camp we got to see what we wanted to see with some of our trialists," said Ellinger. "Our fitness got better as we went. Plus we're walking away healthy, which is a blessing."
Almost as important were the meaningless wins. After a lopsided 5-1 loss two weeks ago to D.C. United, Real Salt Lake posted a 4-0-1 record in the five ensuing preseason games to build confidence heading into the final six weeks of training camp.
"It's preseason, but it's nice to get wins under our belt," said Ellinger.
The coaching staff and players will take a few days off before heading to Monte Gordo, Portugal, Thursday for two more weeks of training camp.
The next three weeks are all about getting the players fitter and sharper.
"We didn't have too many games (in Florida) when they had to play 90 minutes," said Ellinger. "As we move forward from here, we have to get the top 12 or 13 players match fit. That's the next step for us."
Aside for during practices, Ellinger hopes to increase that fitness level with three scheduled scrimmages against Portuguese teams. The first is against Beira Mar, a first division team currently 17th out of 18 teams with a record of 4-6-11. Salt lake will likely face Beira Mar's reserves.
The other two games are against second-division teams Portimonense (8-5-8) and Ohlanese SC (8-6-7). The teams are 10th and seventh respectively in the league standings, and Ellinger anticipates playing their first-team.
The games will give Ellinger the opportunity to see how Salt Lake adjusts to a different style of play that it saw from the four MLS teams it scrimmaged against in Bradenton.
ROSTER TRIM: Training camp trialists Steven Rhyne, Derek McElligott and Martin Hutton will not be offered contracts by the team. That leaves 30 players still on the roster, which Ellinger said will be trimmed to the necessary 28 before the team leaves for Portugal.
STAYING YOUNG: Defender Rusty Pierce, who Salt Lake acquired from New England in the expansion draft, is a situation Ellinger believes the league needs more of. At the relatively young age of 25, Pierce has been a five-year starter in the league.
"Our league is getting to where the young players are getting in by 17, 18 or 19, and by the time they're 25 they have seven or eight years in the league," said Ellinger. "That's the way it is in the rest of the world. We're not going to get better as a league and a country until more of that happens."
Ellinger's philosophy is a big reason why Salt Lake drafted teenagers Nik Besagno (16) and Jamie Watson (18) with its first two picks in January's MLS SuperDraft.VOLUNTEERS WANTED: Real Salt Lake is looking for game-day volunteers and is accepting applications at the team's Web site, www.realsaltlake.com.
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