RSL head coach Pablo Mastroni speaks with Jazz head coach Will Hardy at a joint team exercise on Wednesday. (Real Salt Lake, Instagram)
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Sandy – In an era where American football coaches can move to England and lead a Premier League soccer team – at least on TV – any combination of skills is not out of the question in today’s wider sports world.
Real Salt Lake took an opportunity during their late-season international break to welcome the Utah Jazz, owned by fellow Ryan Smith, to America First Field in a joint practice that saw some great gains for head coach Pablo Mastroni and his squad. Necessary “reprive” offered. One final push to try and make the MLS playoffs.
“They arrived a while back and wanted to connect the two teams,” Mastroni said. “They’re about to start training camp and I thought it was a good idea on our part to break things down.”
The two teams – Utah’s only top-flight professional sports teams – worked together for nearly an hour, participating in passing drills, conditioning and even penalty shootouts. It was a lighter exercise than the typical intense training sessions that RSL conducts on a day-to-day basis.
“When you’re in the Grind, there’s not much relief. It’s game to game; it’s very focused, and I thought today, it was great to integrate jazz,” Mastroni said. “I think the joy is why we started playing the game, and today I realized that from everyone out there: Jazz, myself, having had a great day and a lot of fun.”
Rediscovering the joy of the game could be crucial for an RSL squad fighting for a playoff spot after winning their last four games. The team currently sits right out of the playoff picture in eighth place in the West, but Mastoroni still believes his team has a shot at making it to the final two regular-season fixtures with 6 points.
“There are other games that have to be played that will be beyond our control,” Mastroni said. “The only thing we can control is winning, and that’s focus.”
“Other sports outside their control” include all seven teams within 4 points of the RSL: Nashville, Portland, Minnesota, LA Galaxy, Vancouver, Seattle and Colorado. Good or bad, depends on perspective – the news is that the RSL plays two of those teams in their final two games of the season: the Galaxy on October 1 in LA and Portland at home on October 9.
Two wins and 6 points would put RSL on 49 points in the season – well below the generally accepted 50-point threshold that is usually required to make the playoffs. Will that be enough to send Claret and Cobalt back in the postseason, or will a surprisingly promising season for the new ownership group end in disappointment?
Before those questions can be answered, RSL will give fans a glimpse into the long-term future when academy prospects Axel Cay, Jude Wellings and Gennaro Negro face Mexican club Atlas in the League Cup on Thursday at 8:06 p.m. MDT. Will make his debut in a friendly match. America First Field.
“Given our depth and personnel shortage, hopefully everyone is going to run tomorrow,” Mastroni said. “We’ll turn people around where everyone will see the field.”
First-team players Jefferson Savarino, Sergio Cordova, Brian Oviedo, Brian Ojeda, Diego Luna and Rubio Rubin are all on international duty and Mastroni said several other players are out with injuries or COVID protocols, leaving them on the bench. Only seven options are given. Tomorrow against reigning Liga MX Champs Atlas.
“I think it’s good for our group of guys who haven’t got too many minutes to get some reps against one of the best teams in Mexico – the defending winners,” Mastroni said. “I think it will be a good game.”