HERRIMAN — The second phase of Real Salt Lake’s preseason is in the books, and coach Mike Petke said he’s pleased with the progress made during his team’s recent nine-day trip to Tucson, Arizona.
“It was a very good week for us in Arizona, it could always be better, you always want more, but I feel we’re in a good position going into the Orlando trip,” Petke said.
RSL returned from Arizona on Thursday, and after a couple days off practiced Sunday morning at the Zions Bank Real Academy. It will depart for Orlando on Monday for the final preseason trip before the March 3 opener.
In preseason games in Arizona, RSL beat the L.A. Galaxy 3-1 and tied the San Jose Earthquakes 1-1.
In Orlando, it will face Orlando City this Saturday and then New York City FC next Thursday.
Midfielder Albert Rusnak said the performances against Los Angeles and San Jose were positives signs of the progress this preseason.
“The games were good. I think we were the better team in both of the games. I know it’s a friendly on one side, but on the other side it’s still against the MLS teams, same players we’re going to play in the MLS, so I think overall the Tucson trip was a good one. We achieved what we wanted to,” Rusnak said.
The Tucson trip was about sharpening things up on grass after the initial week on the turf at the Zions Bank Real Academy.
Rusnak said the team focused a lot on the defensive half in Tucson, with some working in the attacking third as well. In Orlando, he expects everything to be merged together and the starters to play much more than 45 minutes in the preseason games.
“In Orlando as the league is coming to a start, it’s just going to be about putting it together on a bigger field,” Rusnak said.
Real Salt Lake expects to welcome two new midfielders into training while in Orlando, 19-year-old Argentine Pablo Ruiz and 28-year-old Croatian Damir Kreilach.
Kreilach should immediately add quality to the team as he’s in midseason form after playing his final game with Union Berlin last week in the German second division. Ruiz could take a bit longer to settle in, but the acquisitions are meant to challenge the depth of the middle of the field for RSL this season, according to general manager Craig Waibel.
Rusnak said he isn’t worried about the extra competition.
“Hopefully they’re both quality players and they bring quality to the locker room. Obviously it’s a competition to play, but then again we’re all on the same ship, so we’re all trying to achieve the same goals,” Rusnak said.