For Real Salt Lake standouts like Kyle Beckerman, Robbie Findley and Javier Morales, training camp is an opportunity to improve their fitness and fine-tune their technical ability for the upcoming 2008 season. For others, training camp is a once-in-a-lifetime tryout, and with it comes a ton of anxiety.
With upwards of 36 players expected to participate in training camp during the next month, competition for the 28 roster spots is going to be intense.
"No one is guaranteed a place, there are no starters, there are no reserves, you just play for RSL," said general manager Garth Lagerwey. "The supplemental players will be extended the same respect and given the same opportunity to earn spots."
For two trialists and three rookies taken in the supplemental draft, the MLS season may as well be in full swing because now is their time to impress.
The entire RSL technical staff has been paying close attention to Dusan Simic, a midfielder from Serbia, and Sergia Comba, a forward from Argentina, during the first three days of training camp. Both players are in their mid-20s.
Throughout the offseason countless agents approached RSL about potential players, many of whom the coaching staff were able to scout in person. Simic and Comba were players RSL only saw on video. "so this is the next step to seem them in our environment," said Lagerwey.
Both players are intriguing for varying reasons. Comba has the same agent as RSL's trio of Argentines, Morales, Fabian Espindola and Matias Mantilla. Simic hails from an area of Europe that still isn't a part of the European Union, and therefore many players struggle to get work permits in Europe.
"It might be a market we can get in and find some cheap players," said Lagerwey.
Real Salt Lake will take a look at several other trialists in the coming weeks, but Simic and Comba no doubt have the potential to make the best first impression.
Training camp is also a grueling time for rookies, particularly those taken in the supplemental draft the second of two MLS drafts. The first draft, the four-round SuperDraft, is held annually in Baltimore, and is when all of the top college prospects are chosen. The four-round supplemental draft is held the following week, and many of the players are long shots to ever make an MLS roster.
Tino Nunez, Kevin Reiman and Kenny Anaba are hoping to defy those odds with RSL. Nunez was selected with the 17th overall pick in last week's supplemental draft, while Reiman was picked No. 31 and Anaba No. 45.
"All three have done very well," said RSL coach Jason Kreis. "To be honest we feel we will bear some fruit because we worked so hard scouting colleges."
Lagerwey admits that it's unlikely that all three will make Real's 28-man roster, but Nunez obviously has the most potential.
"Nunez is the kid we're most excited about in the sense he gives us something we don't have, which is a very refined ability to hold the ball," said Lagerwey about the 23-year-old striker. "He's really thick and strong."Nunez is a graduate of UC-Santa Barbara, while midfielder Reiman played two seasons at Maryland followed by two seasons at Michigan State. Anaba spent four years with the University of Cincinnati, finishing his college career with 26 goals and 13 assists.
ENDLINES: RSL wrapped up its brief three-day training camp stint in Utah on Tuesday and will depart for California today for 10 days.