CASA GRANDE, Ariz. - Real Salt Lake Head Coach Jason Kreis gave his first update of RSL's preseason camp after training on Friday, sharing his thoughts on how things have gone in Casa Grande and outlining some of the defensive work the Claret-and-Cobalt have done in Arizona.
RSL will have a double session on Saturday. It should be lots of fun - it poured rain in Casa Grande overnight and continues to do so this morning. The fields are pretty soaked, the players are dressed up in their rain gear and we're all ready for some serious slipping and sliding.
Real Salt Lake began a new chapter in its history on Thursday with the announcement that RSL founder Dave Checketts sold the remainder of his stake in the team to Dell Loy Hansen, making Hansen the sole owner of RSL, Rio Tinto Stadium, and ESPN 700 radio. As I listened to the press conference, I found myself getting a bit emotional, especially as Checketts ("Uncle Dave", as he is affectionately known to fans) was speaking. For him, RSL was a labor of love. I firmly believe that Dave Checketts is the reason RSL survived its infancy. Most businesses that fail do so in their first five years, and there were a couple of times that RSL could have and would have failed if it weren't for Checketts and his sports business acumen. He wasn't the flashiest or richest owner in MLS, but he was the most savvy. In short, Dave Checketts was the right man for the job at the time. Uncle Dave, thank you for believing in all of us.
Likewise, I believe Dell Loy Hansen is the right man for the job at this time. New ownership of a sports franchise is always met with some trepidation, so let me tell you a story about Mr. Hansen that may help put your mind at ease.
It probably won't surprise you to learn that my soccer journalism gig doesn't pay all my bills, and very few of us are fortunate enough to say otherwise. As such, I have a career unrelated to soccer that helps me make ends meet. Ironically, it was my other career that led to my first meaningful conversation with Dell Loy. It was 2010 and I was doing a lot of business with one of the other businesses Dell Loy owns. The CEO of Dell Loy's business invited me to sit with him and Hansen in Hansen's suite at the next RSL game. So I decided to enjoy two hours high on the hog - I called in "sick" to my editor for that game and headed to Hansen's suite.
I had met Dell Loy before but never beyond salutations in the hallways and back rooms of the stadium. This time, as I introduced myself formally, he said "you're the journalist, aren't you? I read your stuff! Grab a plate of food and sit down...I want to talk to you." I was flattered and surprised that I was being read by a team owner. For the next half hour he grilled me on everything RSL and soccer-related. What makes RSL so good? What's the diamond midfield? What makes Jason Kreis a good coach? What does this team need to be better? What did the ref call there? How do we get the fans more involved and engaged?
Since then I've had a couple more experiences like this with Hansen. From them, I feel confident stating a few things now that he is RSL's sole owner:
- He is a local who loves Utah and he wants to the team to succeed in Utah in spite of the challenges of being a small market.
- He is a visionary man who knows how to grow a business on multiple fronts.
- He knows who is customer is. The fans are what make this business tick and he knows that.
- He has the resources and is willing to invest them in the team to make sure the product RSL delivers is top-drawer.
- He believes in the team management and technical staff.
I'm very excited to see what unfolds in this next chapter of the Real Salt Lake story. The first eight years of RSL gave us many amazing moments, and I really believe there will be even more of them as we move into the future.
A former RSL beat reporter for multiple outlets, Jeremy Horton is a regular contributor to RealSaltLake.com and covers the team for ESPN 700 AM
After a somewhat lengthy offseason hiatus, Kickin' it with Kwame makes its triumphant return with an episode from Casa Grande. Kwame talks to RSL newcomers Cole Grossman and Devon Sandoval in this edition of the show - Don't miss it.
Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil arrived at RSL's preseason camp in Casa Grande, Ariz. late on Tuesday night, joining the team after spending the last week or so in camp with the U.S. U-20 national team in Puebla, Mexico.
Claret-and-Cobalt Head Coach Jason Kreis gave Gil the day off on Wednesday, with the California-native watching his teammates from the sideline in the team's lone practice of the day. The 19-year-old midfielder is expected to start training with RSL on Thursday, when the team will have its second two-a-day session of the preseason.
Unfortunately for RSL, Gil won't be with the team all that long, as he's expected to leave the Claret-and-Cobalt in early-February for a U-20 training camp ahead of the Feb. 18-March 3 CONCACAF U-20 Championships in Puebla. The top four teams in that tournament will qualify for the U-20 FIFA World Cup, which will take place in Turkey from June 21-July 13.
We caught up with Gil towards the end of the day on Wednesday, talking to him about his offseason experiences with the U-20's and his expectations for himself in what could be a very big 2013 season. We'll publish written and video features off of those interviews later in the week.
Real Salt Lake selected rookie forward Devon Sandoval in the second round of last Thursday’s SuperDraft, trading up two spots to take the University of New Mexico striker 29th overall. An Albuquerque, N.M. native, Sandoval was incredibly excited to join RSL after training with the club for a week last summer.
Here are 10 things you (probably) didn’t know about Devon:
As told to Sam Stejskal:
- The past few weeks have been crazy, going from the MLS Combine in Florida, back home to Albuquerque for a couple of days, then to Salt Lake City and now here in Casa Grande, Ariz. for preseason. It’s a little hard to describe what it’s all felt like but I’m just really happy to be here and I feel really blessed.
- I got to train with RSL for a week last summer on RSL-AZ Academy director Martin Vasquez’s recommendation and it went really well and I really enjoyed my time in Utah. I loved the coaches and I loved the team; it really is like a family and that’s the type of environment I wanted to play in. I think that this is the type of environment that can push me to be the best I can be. Coach Kreis has put together a really special place here and I’m really happy to be a part of it.
- Going into the draft I was hoping RSL would pick me up. Once I saw that in the second round they traded up I was really, really hoping they were going to call my name and when they did it was a really great feeling.
- I watched the draft at my Dad’s condo in Albuquerque. I was watching it with my Mom – my Dad was actually out of town – but my Mom, my grandparents, my girlfriend, my sister, one of my aunts and cousins and one of our family friends were there. It was nuts when I got picked. My girlfriend was recording the draft and when they said “University of New Me…,” you couldn’t even hear the rest, my family just went crazy. I was just sitting there, happy, smiling, but they went crazy, jumping up and down and screaming and all that.
- I played college soccer at the University of New Mexico in my hometown of Albuquerque. Being able to play there was a dream come true. I had grown up watching the Lobos play and just being able to play there in front of my family and friends, just the home crowd, it was really cool.
- Part of the reason I’m super excited about coming to Salt Lake is that my family will be able to come support me. They’ll be making trips out there and they can always drive to Colorado and Dallas when we’re on the road too, so I’m really happy with where I’m at.
- I’ve only spent a week there, but so far I like Salt Lake a lot. I love the snow; flying in and seeing all of it was really cool.
- I’m definitely a target forward. Obviously I want to make myself known for scoring goals and just being someone who works hard, never gives up and fights for the ball and my team. That’s how I try to play, just give 100 percent effort the whole time.
- There’s been a lot of talk about cutting my hair by some of the guys at camp. I started growing it out my freshman year in high school and they shaved it then, so my sophomore year it was long. Then I went to college and freshman year they shaved it again, so – again – it took until my sophomore year for it to get grown back out. Now they’re talking about cutting it again so I’m going to avoid them as much as I can.
- My main focus is definitely soccer. Everything I do is done to be the best player I can be and helping this team hopefully win Cup. I used to snowboard but I gave that up a few years ago because I didn’t want any freak injuries or anything. I do like to watch other sports, I like to watch football and I’m a big 49ers fan, so I’m pretty happy with where they are right now. I also love watching extreme sports like snowboarding and skateboarding - I grew up doing both. Other than that I’m a family guy. When I’m not playing soccer I’m either hanging out with my girlfriend or with my family.
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.