SANDY — Defender Nat Borchers admits he was nervous when coach Jason Kreis announced he was leaving Real Salt Lake shortly after MLS Cup last December.
“There’s always some uncertainties and worries going into an offseason, especially with one as big as we’ve just had with losing Jason Kreis,” said Borchers.
Upon learning that assistant coach Jeff Cassar would be promoted to head coach, however, Borchers’ fears were put to rest.
Last week during the opening phase of Real Salt Lake's preseason in Casa Grande, Ariz., Borchers got even more reassurance that Cassar is the right man for the job.
“The transition has not been difficult at all just in terms of the new coaching staff and the ideas they have for us in preseason and the training sessions we’ve been running,” said Borchers. “That’s a testament to who he is. He has a really good ability to be laid back and turn on the intensity when he needs to. He’s not trying to be Jason Kreis. I’ve been really pleased with what I’ve seen from the training sessions — just the way he’s trying to communicate his ideas.”
New assistant coach Paul Dalglish was particularly pleased with how the players and coaches interacted during the first week of the preseason.
“It’s an exciting time. The players seem to buy into the ideas and enjoy the new ideas and the new energy, and sometimes change is good. The feel around the camp was really positive,” said Dalglish.
Following a brief respite in Utah the past few days — which included media day Tuesday afternoon — Real Salt Lake is ready to kick off the second phase of its preseason in Irvine, Calif., over the next 10 days. That will include preseason games at UC Irvine and Chivas USA.
“First phase was defense and working with the academy kids, just how it’s been the last three years,” said RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey. “Next phase in Irvine is working on our offense — try to get a little bit more creative and finishing our chances. Then we’ll go to Desert Diamond Cup in Tucson (Ariz.) and play four games on a bigger scale and try and put our team together.”
Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando and Luis Gil will join RSL for the second phase of the preseason after spending the past three weeks with the U.S. national team.
It was a very eventful January camp for Gil, who made his national team debut as a 15-minute substitute in the U.S.' 2-0 victory over South Korea last Saturday.
“It was a great feeling to step on that field with the men’s national team, not the youth anymore. It was a good accomplishment, very humbling,” said Gil. “It will be a moment I’ll savor, but now I’ve got to focus on RSL. The season is coming up quick. Now it’s time to get down to business and get ready for preseason and get back with this team.”
With Beckerman, Rimando and Gil in RSL camp this week, first-year coach Cassar will have a full squad at his disposal as he tries to continue to put his stamp on the club in 2014.
“It’s been a great time to familiarize the players with my coaching style but also familiarize themselves with the new assistants. I think the players have been really receptive to the information that’s been given, and we’ve been working hard and smiling. That’s all I can ask for,” said Cassar.