LEHI When Real Salt Lake takes on UANL Tigres of the Mexican First Division tonight at Rice-Eccles Stadium, the score is not truly what matters to the host team.
If RSL has shown anything in its previous international friendlies (4-4-2), it is that player development is more important than winning. Certainly, the club would like to play well in front of its home crowd, and the normal starting 11 can use it to stay sharp, but it is a chance for some of the younger reserve players to get their feet wet on a big stage.
"It gives some of the young guys and reserve players a chance to get out there and show what they can do. To be able to play at a high level," said Dustin Kirby, a second-year player that was a 4th-round draft pick in the 2007 MLS supplemental draft. "I'm used to coming from those Sunday morning games, reserve games where there really aren't a lot of people, so it will be great playing out in front of 15,000 people in that type of atmosphere."
Game experience is at a premium for some of the players on the 28-man roster. The reserve squad for RSL has played only five matches so far this season they are 3-1-1 and in second place in the Western Conference so time on the actual pitch is a reward for many long hours training.
"It is not as fun," added Kirby of not having the opportunity to play in meaningful games. "You train for the games, so when you aren't getting in more than once a month, it is a little frustrating. It takes a toll on you mentally. It is tough to hang in there every day, but that is the job."
For MLS rookie David Horst, there are many things that are advantageous to Real playing its game against Tigres. First, he should get plenty of time.
"We expect David to start and to play all 90 minutes for us," said coach Jason Kreis.
Along with working on his game, Horst can adjust to playing in a different environment.
"Every game I have gone out there I try to get better at some area," Horst said. "Whether it is my conditioning or my ball playing. I just want to improve in some aspect of the game.
"It is a completely different atmosphere," Horst continued. "It makes it even better, gets the adrenaline flowing. It may be my last chance at Rice-Eccles. I'm looking forward to closing that place out, hopefully with a win."
The reserve players and those fighting for more playing time know this is a chance to prove something to the coaches. It is one thing to score, defend or assist in a training session or a reserve game, but it is something even more when it comes against a quality opponent.
"It's an opportunity to look at some of the younger players and plug them into spots. We want to see how their development is coming," Kreis said. "We expect to see them getting better. We expect that they don't make some of the same mistakes as they have in the past.
"All of our young players, I don't think any of them could say they haven't had an opportunity in a meaningful match. But they have all made mistakes," Kreis added. "It is important to see we are making less and less of those mistakes and getting better."
As well as giving the younger players the chance to play, the game also allows some of the newest members a chance to improve chemistry with their newest teammates.
"We have some new players like Robbie Russell, Clint (Mathis) and Will (Johnson) that we would like to continue to coach them and get them acclimated to the team. We'd like to get them some minutes with the team and in the system that we would like to play," said Kreis.
While Tigres is a formidable opponent the club currently sits in second place in the first division and has won two league titles Kreis and the rest of the club would treat this friendly the same regardless of the opponent.
"I haven't looked at them at all," said Kreis. "We are a team that is pretty focused on what we are doing and looking at ourselves. I haven't spent any time looking at Tigres at all."
NOTES: Individual tickets for the two games scheduled at Real Salt Lake's new stadium in Sandy went on sale Tuesday. Tickets for the season opener Oct. 9 at 8 p.m. against New York, and Saturday, Oct. 18 vs. FC Dallas are available to the general public.
The tickets are available either online at RSLstadium.com, realsaltlake.com, calling 801-924-8585, or at the RSL front office at Trolley Corners. They are available for $15 (Upper Deck), $18 (North Goal), $25 (Corner Flag), $30 (Lower Sideline), and $60 (VIP), with discounts in each section available for group purchases of 20 seats or more. A limited number of premium seats are available for $75 (Sideline Club), $100 (Club) and $125 (Center Circle).
ESPINDOLA HONORED: Fabian Espindola was named Major League Soccer's Player of the Week for Week 23. The 23-year-old forward from Argentina scored both of Real's goals in a 2-0 win over Colorado last Friday night. His second goal a 59th minute beautiful chip over the onrushing keeper was also nominated for Goal of the Week.