Training busy, loaded as RSL preps for expansion NYC

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SANDY — Just as Real Salt Lake was returning to health, the MLS side was hit once again by international call-ups.

RSL midfielder Jordan Allen reported to Australia for training camp with the United States’ U-20 national team ahead of the U-20 World Cup in New Zealand next month immediately following the Salt Lake team’s 4-1 loss at Montreal over the weekend.

Though the opportunity to represent his country was an honor for Allen, it left a sizable void in the RSL midfield — one head coach Jeff Cassar said will likely be filled by a variety of faces.

“I don’t think it’s any one person,” Cassar said following training Wednesday. “I think we need to collectively step up. If everyone steps up, we’re going to have a better performance. We can’t rely on one person; we need all 18 contributing for us to be successful. It can’t come down to one forward or one midfielder; it’s got to be a collective effort.”

The local team had a busy group at a full practice, including two formerly injured starters in Joao Plata and Sebastian Jaime. Several RSL players on loan to the third-division Monarchs affiliate were also available at America First Field, such as goalkeeper Lalo Fernandez, defender Aaron Maund and forward Sebastian Saucedo.

The Monarchs were in New York City for a U.S. Open Cup second-round game against the amateur club Long Island Roughriders.

You can do different things in practice when you have correct numbers. You can give players breaks throughout the practice, and it's definitely nice to have a full complement of players. That's for sure.

–RSL coach Jeff Cassar

“You can do different things in practice when you have correct numbers,” Cassar said of the extra bodies available. “You can give players breaks throughout the practice, and it’s definitely nice to have a full complement of players. That’s for sure.”

RSL welcomes expansion outfit New York City FC into Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday, and that includes two assistant coaches, a former athletic trainer, as many as six former players and head coach and RSL original Jason Kreis.

But midfielder Luis Gil doesn’t necessarily see the return of his old boss as any bigger game than the rest of them.

“I feel like every game we’ve had so far has been an important game,” Gil said. “Every game this year is a big game for us. I think that’s how it’s been proven.”

PLATA NEARING RETURN — Plata has trained at a greater velocity this week, including participating in each session of practice Tuesday morning. The 23-year-old Ecuadorian striker is approaching a full return from foot surgery that sidelined him during RSL’s preseason.

Cassar said Plata may be able to play a role in Saturday’s match against NYC FC — but he’ll know more later this week.

Regardless, the forward’s return at this point in the season has already reaped dividends.

“It’s a credit to Joao. It’s been a long process for him,” Cassar said. “He’s worked extremely hard with our trainers and staff to get back to this point. Now it’s going to take another level of work and fitness to get to where he really wants to be. Being able to practice is good, but being able to do it at 100 percent is another level. He’s working hard to get there.”

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Sean Walker


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