Tonight in Oklahoma, far from the distractions of home and out of the public spotlight, Real Salt Lake faces the Kansas City Wizards in the final dress rehearsal before the start of the 2008 MLS season.
The Saturn Cup, as it will be billed to fans in Norman, Okla., is one last chance for players to make a good impression in advance of next Saturday's season-opener at Chicago at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
"I think the focus for us as a group has to be that this is the end of a very, very good preseason," said coach Jason Kreis. "We would like to see some signs of that, and we'd like to see them cap off all their hard work, all the tactical work, all the togetherness over the preseason and put it together for this last preseason (game)."
Kreis stressed, however, it's just an exhibition game the real season doesn't begin until next week. The fact it is just a scrimmage is why he put his players through a two-and-a-half-hour training session Thursday, admitting it was longer than a typical Thursday training session will be during the regular season.
The players also understand the outcome is meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but as new defender Ian Joy said, "we're not going there to lose."
Midfielder Kyle Beckerman said he's treating the game as a good exercise, a chance for everyone to work on their fitness and go out and kick someone else besides their own teammates. He also admitted that winning has a way of becoming contagious, and a win in Oklahoma could be a boost heading into next weekend.
"But on the other hand if we lose it's not going to bring us down," he said.
RSL's game with the Wizards, which kicks off at 5 p.m. (MDT), is the second of three games at the Saturn Cup. The first game pits Norman Celtic Under-16 and Under-17 against each other, while the final game involves Kansas City's reserves taking on SMU."We've worked on a major number of things over the past two months and we've got to try and take that into this game, and try and get our shape and how we want to play, how we want to defend, how we want to attack," said Joy.
THE WAITING GAME: RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey said Thursday that Scottish striker Kenny Deuchar is expected to get his final U.S. work visa paper work stamped on Tuesday in London, at which time he would be able to fly to Salt Lake City. If all goes well, he could be in Utah with a few days to spare before the March 29 opener against the Fire.
REAL WEEK FESTIVITIES: Real Salt Lake announced its scheduled festivities in preparation for MLS First Kick next weekend. For a complete list of events, including this year's Super Tailgate, log onto realsaltlake.com.