By Keave Tollington
With the MLS preseason heading into its final stretch, the next few weeks will be crucial for every single player as they fight to impress in games where risks can afford to be taken.
Real Salt Lake headed down to Tucson today, boosted by the return of Luis Gil and Nick Rimando. Both joined up with the rest of the squad after spending the past month in Jurgen Klinsmann’s January camp coming off two matches with the USMNT. Rimando played in both matches against Chile and Panama while Gil saw his second cap in a short appearance against Panama last Sunday.
The return of 2014 shutout star, Rimando, is expected to provide the boost that RSL need to continue their successful preseason campaign so far.
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This Wednesday (February 18th) sees the start of the annual Desert Diamond Cup in Tucson, Arizona, involving FC Tucson and 5 MLS teams. Real Salt Lake, Sporting Kansas City, New England Revolution, Seattle Sounders, and Colorado Rapids all take part this year.
The tournament will last 10 Days with each team playing 4 games in total. The competition aims to boost excitement for the new season, which commences just 7 days after its completion.
So far this preseason, Real Salt Lake have managed to beat UC Irvine and OC Blues in California. In those games head coach Jeff Cassar had the opportunity to see how the new signings gelled with a long list of returning players.
With the Desert Diamond Cup he can do the same but against MLS clubs, giving the fans a more clear vision into just how prepared RSL are for the 2015 MLS campaign.
These games are a bit more than just preseason friendlies for Cassar. It is not only an opportunity to win a trophy (however insignificant the title really is) but it’s also a pivotal time for him to see where play needs tweaking and he can allow the players to grasp new ideas before the start of the season.
Camp has been extremely positive for everyone at RSL so far and they meet 2014 MLS Cup runners-up, New England Revolution on Wednesday for a fixture that is likely to have more structure in terms of players than the two previous friendlies.
The Revs beat RSL 2-1 in a scrimmage game two weeks ago in both side’s first games of preseason but the meeting in the Desert Diamond Cup on Wednesday will be a lot more intense.
Real Salt Lake will now be moving into practicing more defined sets of plays, formations and starting lineups as the MLS season rapidly approaches.
Real Salt Lake’s upcoming friendlies:
Real Salt Lake vs. New England Revolution – Wednesday, February 18th
Real Salt Lake vs. FC Tucson – Saturday, February 21st
Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting Kansas – Wednesday, February 25th
Real Salt Lake vs. TBD – Saturday, February 28th
How will Real Salt Lake fare in 2015?