U.S. Soccer announced on Tuesday that San Jose defender Steven Beitashour and Colorado forward Edson Buddle have both left Jurgen Klinsmann's January camp due to injury.
While unfortunate, Beitashour's departure opens the door wider for RSL defender Tony Beltran to pick up his first U.S. senior cap in the Americans' Jan. 29 friendly against Canada at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston. Beltran, New York defender Connor Lade and Hertha Berlin youngster Alfredo Morales are now the only three right backs in Klinsmann's camp. Beltran is by far the most experienced of the three, with his 110 professional regular season appearances dwarfing Lade's 26 and Morales's 11.
Of course, Beltran isn't the only RSL player currently in U.S. camp. Captain Kyle Beckerman is also training with the national team in Carson, Calif. He's been a favorite of Klinsmann's since the German took over in August 2011, regularly appearing for Klinsmann in friendlies and World Cup Qualifiers alike.
Let's hope Beltran and Beckerman get the start next Tuesday against Canada. They've both certainly earned it with their stellar play on the field and hard work off of it.
Both players are expected to return to RSL for the Claret-and-Cobalt's third and final preseason leg from Feb. 11-24 at the FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup in Tucson, Ariz.
CASA GRANDE, Ariz. - Real Salt Lake underwent its preseason fitness tests on Tuesday morning, with the players performing the shuttle run, the 30 meter dash and the infamous beep test at Grande Sports World.
What exactly is the beep test? We'll let RSL Strength & Conditioning Coach Dan Barlow explain.
"The beep test is a test that's used to measure the fitness of all the players when they return from the offseason," Barlow said. "In the test, the players run 20 meters down and 20 meters back with a 10 second break between each run. About every minute the speed of the run increases, with players having to finish the 40 meters a little bit faster to make it back before the beep sounds. The test correlates very well with how much distance players are able to cover in a soccer match, so the better a player does on a beep test, generally, the more distance he's able to cover in a match."
The Claret-and-Cobalt split into three sections for Tuesday morning's tests, breaking into a defender group, a midfielder group and forward/goalkeeper group. Midfielders Javier Morales, Ned Grabavoy, Sebastian Velasquez, Enzo Martinez and David Viana all ran the test to completion, first-year player Carlos Salcedo took top honors amongst defenders and goalkeeper Nick Rimando was best in forward/goalkeeper group.
The players will get back to work on Tuesday afternoon with a more traditional training session.
CASA GRANDE, Ariz. - RSL had its first training session of the 2013 preseason on Monday night. It was a lighter affair, with the team doing some focused ball work before getting into a pair of fun games.
The first game was basically a possession drill, but instead of using their feet, the players would throw the ball to each other, scoring a point every time they were able to throw a pass and volley with their feet to a teammate. The second game was goofier, with the squad split into two teams for a small sided match. The only catch? Each player (excluding goalies) had a partner that they had to hold hands with throughout the entire match.
Monday's practice was the first as a pro for RSL rookies John Stertzer and Devon Sandoval, both of whom were taken in Thursday's SuperDraft. Though it was a lighter session, it was still a big deal for Stertzer, who had been anxious to step on the field with his new teammates.
"It was definitely a big deal for me with it being my first training," Stertzer said. "The coaches are fun, and it was a good first session. Definitely felt good to get my feet back under me."
It should also be noted that several RSL-Arizona Academy players filled out the roster for the practice session. U-18's Andrew Brody (Committed to the University of Louisville), Ive Burnett (South Carolina), Coco Navarro (Marquette), Benji Lopez (Undecided), Jon Zabasajja (Undecided), U-16 Sebastian Saucedo and former RSL-AZ Academy U-18 Jordan Allen (Virginia; Allen chose to return to his hometown of Rochester, N.Y. to finish his senior year of high school) all participated. Former San Jose and Seattle goalkeeper Andrew Weber also trained with the team.
Expect things to get a whole lot more serious on Tuesday, when the team will undergo fitness testing in the morning and have a more intense practice in the afternoon.
Casa Grande, Ariz. - RSL arrived in Casa Grande, Ariz. on Monday afternoon for the start of preseason camp. Definitely amazing to think that the 2012 season ended a little over two months ago - even more amazing to consider that the 2013 campaign gets started in just under six weeks.
Casa Grande schedule
Head Coach Jason Kreis will put the Claret-and-Cobalt through its first training session of 2013 this evening, directing the team through a light practice that will begin at 5:30 p.m. MT. Fitness testing is scheduled for Tuesday morning, with a second practice planned for later on Tuesday afternoon.
In all, RSL will have 10 training sessions over the course of six days in Casa Grande. The seventh day - next Monday, Jan. 28 - will see the Claret-and-Cobalt take on Denmark's U-20 National Team in the club's first match of the preseason.
RSL shorthanded for first leg of preseason
Real Salt Lake will be without several important players in Casa Grande due to injury and international duty. Center back Nat Borchers (L quad tendon surgery) and left back Chris Wingert (R fractured metatarsal) will both miss the entire preseason due to injury.
Captain Kyle Beckerman (U.S.), 2012 leading scorer Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica) and right back Tony Beltran (U.S.) will all miss the Casa Grande camp while with their respective national teams. It's expected that all three players will rejoin the team for the third and final leg of preseason from Feb. 11-24 in Tucson.
Midfielder Luis Gil (U.S. U-20) did not travel with the team from Salt Lake on Monday. He'll join up with the squad on Tuesday following the conclusion of his U.S. U-20 national team camp. Gil will be back with the U-20's later this preseason for the CONCACAF U-20 World Cup Qualifying Tournament, which will take place from Feb. 18-23.
One player who did travel with the team on Monday is goalkeeper Nick Rimando. Don't be surprised if he misses time later in camp for the U.S.'s Feb. 6 World Cup Qualifier at Honduras, however. Rimando was called up by U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann for the January camp but - after talking with Klinsmann and the RSL staff - declined the invite due to a nagging shoulder injury.
MLS Supplemental Draft on Tuesday
RSL has two picks in Tuesday's MLS Supplemental Draft. Barring any trades, the Claret-and-Cobalt will make one selection in both the third (50th overall) and 4th rounds (69th overall). The team traded away its first and second round Supplemental Draft selections to Philadelphia to move up from 31st to 29th in last Thursday's SuperDraft.
We'll be back with plenty more updates from camp. Stay tuned.
A fun bit of news came out of Costa Rica on Thursday, when it was announced that Real Salt Lake star striker Alvaro Saborio will captain Costa Rica during this month's Copa UNCAF tournament.
is the new captain of the Costa Rican national team.
Saborio, who is currently with the Ticos as they prepare for the Copa UNCAF and for their Feb. 6 Hexagonal opener at Panama, tweeted about the honor, writing (loose translation here, bear with me) that "it's an honor to be captain of la Seleccion" and that he'd do "everything for the good of la Sele."
Muchas gracias a todos, es todo un honor ser capitan de la Seleccion, voy a dar todo como siempre para el bien de la sele...
— Alvaro saborio (@al_saborio) January 17, 2013
MLS's third-leading scorer last season, Saborio will re-join Real Salt Lake after Costa Rica's Feb. 6 game at Panama, linking up with RSL in Tucson, Ariz. for the team's third and final leg of the preseason.
The club's biggest congrats go out to Sabo for the honor. Can't wait until he's back in the Claret-and-Cobalt.
Real Salt Lake selected two palyers in Thursday's 2012 MLS SuperDraft, picking University of Maryland MF John Stertzer in the first round with the 12th overall selection and trading up two spots in the second round to grab University of New Mexico FW Devon Sandoval with the 29th overall pick.
Our Graphic Designer Ben Barnes has been hard at work putting all the information you need to know about Wednesday's MLS SuperDraft picks into a few awesome infographics. Have a look...
RSL traded up for the 29th pick in Thursday's MLS SuperDraft, choosing University of New Mexico alum Devon Sandoval. Sandoval spent a week training with RSL over the summer and obviously impressed the coaching staff enough to warrant a draft pick.
Sandoval was a Second-Team All-American during his senior season with New Mexico, and accumulated 28 goals and 17 assists over the course of his collegiate career.
Real Salt Lake nabbed University of Maryland midfielder John Stertzer with the 12th selection of Thursday's SuperDraft. The 22-year-old Stertzer was a standout at Maryland, appearing in 79 games, scoring 25 goals and notching 13 assists in four seasons with the Terps. He was also a Third Team All-American in his senior season in 2012, when he helped lead Maryland to a NCAA College Cup appearance as well as an ACC Tournament crown and an ACC regular season co-championship.
Check out Stertzer's highlight tape above.
Exciting news out of the Real Salt Lake offices today as we learned that All-Star attacking midfielder Javier Morales has signed an offer to return to Salt Lake, keeping him in the Claret-and-Cobalt possibly for at least the 2013 season.
League and team policy mean that the terms of Javi's new contract haven't been made public yet - we won't get hard and fast numbers until the MLS Player's Union releases salaries later in the year - but we do know is it's an incentive-laden deal. As Morales was RSL's highest-paid player last season, the value of his new contract was the subject of much discussion this offseason, especially in light of his age (he turned 33 on Jan. 10) and the horrific ankle injury he suffered in 2011. But the reason RSL worked so hard to keep him in the fold is because they don't yet have a replacement that can bring what he brings.
Jason Kreis' diamond system revolves around a strong central midfield pairing. One reason it's been so successful is that he enjoys two of the best players in MLS at those positions. Kyle Beckerman is arguably the best defensive mid in MLS - his job (on offense) is to make simple passes with a high completion percentage, which he does. Morales' job is to make high-risk, incisive passes and spread the field.
Without an effective attacking mid, the team tends to collapse toward the middle and get bogged down because there's no space. In order to keep the width, Javi needs to touch the ball a lot - maybe every five or so passes needs to go through him - and distribute to wide players. Where Javi excels is in his vision of the field, his soccer IQ which tells him where the ball needs to go next, and his ability to put himself in places where he can touch the ball as often as the system demands. Right now RSL simply doesn't have another player with that skill set.
Morales' age and injury history have at times cast doubt on his ability to stay in form, but do the numbers bear that out? Soccer is not an easy game to analyze statistically, but for a moment let's focus on assists because those are a fairly good indicator of how a No. 10 like Javi is performing. He lead the team in assists last year, but here's the part that indicates how valuable he is to RSL: His 9 assists were 21% of the team's total. In case you're wondering how that compares to his earlier years, that number is exactly in line with his career total, highlighting his continued importance to RSL's offensive effort. And lest you think Javi was less efficient at dishing out dimes in 2012, consider this: Last year he averaged 0.38 assists per 90 minutes. That's the second-most efficient year of his career and his highest of the last four seasons - only his 2008 efficiency was better. So rest assured, Morales is still making the most of his minutes.
Of course, it's doubtful that a 33-year-old midfielder (especially one who gets fouled as much as Javi does) is going to play 90 minutes every night of the grueling MLS season. That's where the incentive-laden contract comes in. It's likely that Morales' salary will depend to some degree on his performance metrics, including minutes played. In effect, it's an insurance policy for RSL in case Javier's output drops off or he can't go as many minutes - a shrewd move by one of the smartest front offices around.
Entering the twilight of his career, Javier Morales is still one of the top attacking midfielders in MLS and I expect he'll continue to ably orchestrate RSL's attack in 2013 and hopefully beyond. Welcome back, Javi!
A former RSL beat reporter for multiple outlets, Jeremy Horton is a regular contributor to RealSaltLake.com and will cover the team for ESPN700 AM