LEHI — Most would agree that Real Salt Lake defender Jamison Olave is one of the most intimidating players in MLS. His own teammates get to experience that firsthand every day in practice.
Following last Saturday's playoff loss, the coaching staff kept the tactics to a minimum during Tuesday's training session and just let the players go at it. The competition in the 6-on-6 mini games was intense, and Olave was right in the thick of it.
During a span of 10 minutes, he left Chris Wingert, Ned Grabavoy, Fabian Espindola and Pablo Campos all in a heap following a tough challenge. All but Wingert, who missed the rest of practice, popped up after shaking off the pain.
"It's always going to be a balance when you ask the guys to be competitive, there's going to be a knock here or there," said RSL coach Jason Kreis.
Wingert should be fine, as Kreis said he just took a knock to the knee.
All in all, Kreis said it was exactly the type of practice Real Salt Lake needed heading into its must-win playoff game against FC Dallas this weekend.
"It was super good. The intensity was really, really good," said Kreis. "We just got out here and went after it. There wasn't as much tactical talk, it was just about them playing and competing and the guys handled it really well."
Nat Borchers said it was a tough day, but the competition was exactly what the team needed.
"It was a good day to fire up the boys and get us ready for Saturday," said Borchers.
TAKING IT EASY: RSL striker Alvaro Saborio continues to be limited in training because of a nagging knee injury.
RSL's leading scorer didn't practice on Tuesday and instead stayed in the training room receiving treatment on the knee and riding a stationary bicycle. He'll likely be limited in practice all week.
"We're being very protective of him to try to do our best so that he's ready for the weekend," said Kreis.
Saborio played 67 minutes in Game 1 at Dallas last weekend but was eventually replaced by Robbie Findley when he was no longer effective.
Kreis said at this point there's no guarantee that Saborio will be in the starting lineup this weekend.
Saborio started 23 of 30 MLS matches this year, as well as five of six CONCACAF Champions League matches.
DRAWING THE CREW: Real Salt Lake was paired with Columbus for the Champions League quarterfinals in a draw held Monday.
Initially Kreis was disappointed. Not only are the teams very familiar with the each other, but it also meant that only one MLS team could advance to the semifinals.
After thinking about it a little longer, though, Kreis believes the situation is actually a good thing.
"Once you actually see it and think a little bit more about it, (I'm) obviously pleased that we get to play a team that's in the exact same situation as us," said Kreis. "That was the biggest concern, how are we going to get our guys match-ready?"
The Champions League quarterfinals kick off in late February. That's right about the time Real Salt Lake's players reported for training camp this year. If RSL had been paired with one of the four Mexican teams, not to mention Saprissa (Costa Rica) or Olimpia (Honduras), it would've been playing a team in midseason form.
Now, it will be facing an MLS team that will have similar offseason rust.
"It's a good draw. I think there's an opportunity for an MLS team to make the final," said RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey. "It's a level playing field. … In theory, it's the best team wins, and it's up to us to be the best team."
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