For about a dozen Real Salt Lake players, today was their first opportunity to practice on the rock-hard turf of Rice-Eccles Stadium ? the place they’ll be calling home until early October. As expected, the soccer wasn’t pretty thanks to the crazy hops, skips and bounces, but hey, isn’t that what we’re all used to in Utah by now?
Twenty-three of the team’s 28 roster players practiced at realistically full strength on Tuesday, with Chris Wingert the only player limited because of injuries. The defender spent most of the practice jogging, often at full speed, a good sign his knee sprain might be healed by opening day. In addition to Nate Sturgis, Robbie Findley and Chris Seitz, who are all away with the U.S. Under-23 National Team, midfielder Dema Kovalenko was also absent. The Ukraine native is back in Chicago today being sworn in as a U.S. citizen.
Quick correction: I forgot to mention that Kenny Deuchar was also absent as he still awaits for his work visa.
Also of note, the coaching staff put the players through the dreaded beep test before practice on Tuesday, and the winner was of course, rookie Tony Beltran. Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales finished in the top three of the extreme fitness test. The other five RSL players in the top eight were Kenny Cutler, Dusty Kirby, Yura Movsisyan, Carey Talley and Nat Borchers.
It would appear that Beckerman and Morales are positioning themselves nicely to be the midfield engines of Real Salt Lake.