Real Salt Lake owner David Checketts had a strong message for fans during his Monday evening conference call with reporters, which focused almost exclusively on politics, not soccer.
"We have a season ahead of us that's very exciting," said Checketts, who made several references to newcomers like Freddy Adu and Luis Tejada, not to mention RSL's success in the second half of the season last year.
"Our fan base is pretty strong and pretty excited, and I hope they can look past this and let me deal with (the stadium)," he said. "And they can get into (Rice-Eccles) stadium and get ready to cheer the team because this is going to be a very good club this year."
That's easier said than done, especially over the next two months. With opening day not until April 7, fans don't have much choice but to stew over the stadium and RSL's future here in Utah.
For the players and coaches, even though RSL's season opener at Rice-Eccles Stadium is more than two months away, there's no time to fret about Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon's decision.
Most players report to Salt Lake City this weekend for team physicals on Sunday, with Real Salt Lake's two-month training camp getting under way Monday at the University of Utah indoor practice facility. The club will train in Utah for a week before spending a portion of the next two months in Florida, Spain and California, in addition to several other locations.
Real coach John Ellinger expects training camp, and realistically the entire season, to be a bit of a "roller coaster" as long as there's uncertainty surrounding the club's future.
"It's going to be out there, it's something we can't avoid," said Ellinger, who quickly added, "but our emphasis is going to be strictly on the season and getting through the playoffs. We'll let the people who can actually take care of it take care of it."
Those people would be Checketts and Real Salt Lake CEO Dean Howes, not to mention Utah's politicians.
As of now, Ellinger's got bigger concerns. Upwards of 36 to 40 players will be invited to RSL's training camp, with only 28 roster spots available. Ellinger is hoping to have all of those decisions made by Feb. 26 when the club departs for Madrid, Spain, for two weeks of training.
Through it all, Ellinger will be toying with lineup possibilities and tactics 4-4-2 vs. 3-5-2 all in the hopes of helping Real Salt Lake build on its 7-3-5 record during the second half of last season.
"We had such a good feeling at the end of the season overall," said Ellinger. "For us, the start of the season is important, it was nice to get a couple of home games to start this year instead of away."
In RSL's first two seasons, the club played its opening two games on the road both times. Its record during that stretch is 0-3-1. In 2007, Real will host FC Dallas on April 7 and Columbus on April 14. The remainder of the MLS schedule hasn't been released, and probably won't for several more weeks.
"The quicker we get to 46 or 47 points the better," said Ellinger, whose team had 39 points in 2006.
Talk of the upcoming season, whether it's training camp or opening day, is what's helping Ellinger and his players avoid getting frustrated over the stadium dilemma.
"We know we're playing here this year," said Ellinger. "I think most of us still feel this will be rectified at some point."
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