Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Closer Look at the Preseason Schedule

Below is the preseason schedule as a reminder. Let's take a closer look at it, and what it means for the team.

The team is wrapping up their first week of preseason this weekend, culminating with a match against the Ventura County Fusion (former club of RSL first round pick Jean Alexandre) on Sunday at 6pm (not 8pm as published by RSL). That match will likely be a glorified scrimmage but the team will get good looks at the training camp additions, and we may finally hear something about what these guys offer. Look for match reports most likely at the Ventura County Star, Behind the Shield and possibly on the Ventura County Fusion website. Also, check back here on Keepin' It Real for coverage of the match begining at 5:30PM.

So what is the team doing in the meantime? They are hard at work. They have a set schedule, and are purposefully slaves to a routine. They are trying to avoid distractions and they spend virtually all of their time together as a team. Teammates and potential teammates are bonding. They are learning about each of the players abilities (and their weaknesses too!), and the coaches are trying to determine the direction for the team as they see the possibilities unfold in front of them. Communication becomes a big issue as you have English, Spanish, Dutch, and Portugese spoken, along with Southern (Mathis), Canadian (KOA), Jamaican (Bomma) and Scottish (Joy). Meanwhile Garth Lagerway tries to figure out how in the heck he is going to get some of these players signed, if the decision is to make them a part of the team.

So what happens next week? Well, more of the same. Monday - Friday will be a repeat of this week and Fri night and Sat afternoon will be about evaluating the players in a game setting as they take on Chinese champions Shandong Luneng Taishan on Friday and either UCSB or CSU-SLO on Saturday. Then on the 14th they will return to SLC for a brief stay.

They are expected to have one quick training (I believe it will happen on the 17th), before heading off to the next phase in Florida on Feb 18th. So will that trip be more of the same? Not exactly. It will likely become more competitive as the players (and coaches) start to see the players whose jobs may be on the line and where the competition for spots lie. There could even be some marginal players cut before this trip, but I think this group may be safe. There also may be some players joining in Florida, but these would likely be local training fodder. Their 10 days in Florida will include two scrimmages, against the Univ of S. Florida and the University of Tampa. This will likely be the last chance for the staff to evaluate the players in a game setting before making cuts.

When the team returns, there will be cuts made almost immediately as the team moves to get down to a roster size of 24. They will have a quick day or two in Utah before heading off to the Charleston tourney. Those who have just found out they are part of the plans for RSL next year will scramble to start looking into housing arrangements. They will depart for S. Carolina with their 2009 team largely intact although they could carry a trialist and an open spot along with them. In Charleston you will start to see more of the first team players, but it will still be viewed as a forum for tinkering and evaluating. By that final Saturday against Toronto, the team will know largely of what it has to work with for the upcoming season, and the tactical direction of the team will be mostly in place.

The final two weeks will be where everything comes together as the team is back home and is focused on getting ready for that first match at Seattle.


Thurs., Jan. 29: Players report to Utah for entrance physicals / fitness testing
Fri., Jan. 30: Media Day at Rio Tinto Stadium – 1:00 – 6:00 p.m. MT
Jan. 30-31: Training in Utah (sites/times TBD)

Feb. 2-14: Preseason Trip #1 to Oxnard/Ventura, Calif.
Sun., Feb. 8 – RSL vs. Ventura County Fusion – 8:00 p.m. MT
Fri., Feb. 13 – RSL vs. Shandong Luneng Taishan (China) – 5:00 p.m. MT
Sat., Feb. 14 – RSL vs. UCSB or CSU-SLO – 11:00 a.m. MT

Feb. 15-17: Training in Utah (sites/times TBD)
Feb. 18-28: Preseason Trip #2 to Tampa, Fla.
Sat., Feb. 21 – RSL vs. opp. TBD @ Univ. of South Florida – 5:00 p.m. MT
Tues., Feb. 24 – RSL vs. opp. TBD @ Univ. of Tampa – 5:00 p.m. MT

March 1-3: Training in Utah (sites/times TBD)
March 4-15: Preseason Trip #3 to Charleston, So. Car. – Carolina Challenge Cup
Sat., March 7 – RSL vs. D.C. United (MLS) – 3:00 p.m. MT
Wed., March 11 – RSL vs. Charleston (USL 1st Div.) – 5:15 p.m. MT
Sat., March 14 – RSL vs. Toronto FC (MLS) – 3:00 p.m. MT
Saturday, March 21: Exhibition contest – Opponent/Site TBD
Saturday, March 28: RSL @ Seattle Sounders FC – 8:30 p.m. MT

Thursday, April 2: MLS First Kick 2009 – RSL vs. Columbus Crew, live on ESPN2