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Mastroeni preparing RSL for physical 2023 campaign

RSL's coach is hoping to build a physical foundation for late arrivals Savarino and Gomez

Real Salt Lake coach Pablo Mastroeni looking intently during a preseason training session.
Lucas Muller | Wasatch Soccer Sentinel

Real Salt Lake's preseason preparations are continuing apace, and coach Pablo Mastroeni is keeping a firm focus on building a physical backing for the season.

The biggest concern: Jefferson Savarino's late arrival, owing to visa issues. Relaying his experience with Rubio Rubin, who missed preseason in 2022 through surgery recovery, Mastroeni emphasized the importance of "foundational work" after the player's arrival.

"Obviously, Sava's a really important player on this team," Mastroeni said. "But what I learned from last year is you can't take this period of time and think it's just preseason. It's not just preseason, it's foundational work."

Mastroeni also spoke specifically about the addition of Carlos Andrés Gómez, who's anticipated to be joining the team later this week ahead of a preseason leg in Arizona. Gómez, the RSL coach says, needs to be in "good physical shape" ahead of the season's start.

"It's really important we get him into good physical shape, knowing he's coming from a league that's really controlled as far as possession is concerned, where here, it's a lot of transition," Mastroeni said. "We want to make sure that the first game he steps foot in, he is going to be confident in all his abilities, to show well, to feel good about himself."

Ethan Kershaw of RSL Season Pass and Wasatch Soccer Sentinel was there on the scene with gathered media to speak with Mastroeni. Excerpts of his remarks follow, or you can find the whole press conference from KSL.com reporter Caleb Turner's Twitter.

On Jefferson Savarino's late arrival

One thing that I learned from last year, because as a coach you learn something about the way you want to manage, and more importantly, the effects of certain aspects, such as missing preseason. Last year, Rubio (Rubin) missed six weeks of preseason, where you lay down the foundation of physical work and tactical work, and it took him nine months, because we shortchanged him. We wanted to expedite, so we brought him into the team. But he can't produce what he's capable of producing if he doesn't have the physical attributes, capabilities to do that. So what happens? Then, it becomes a fitness issue. It doesn't even make sense --- you're talking about a physical problem and it affects confidence. Yeah, if you can't do what you do.

It's about (Savarino) coming in, if he comes in Monday night, Tuesday's the start of preseason day one. Obviously, Sava's a really important player on this team. But what I learned from last year is you can't take this period of time and think it's just preseason. It's not just preseason, it's foundational work. If you build anything on a poor foundation, you're going to be disappointed with the results in the future.

The great thing is, we've got players that have stepped up, that are stepping in, that are fit, that are 75 minutes fit. That gives us a good pause and good runway for Sava to come in and build him up. If it's game three, game four, it's better having him in a good headspace and a good physical space than it is to throw him to the wolves and then wonder why his confidence is low.

On moving on to the Arizona-based leg of preseason

I think the guys are about at a tipping point as far as playing against each other. It's really interesting, because the way we want to attack --- we've been focusing on that for the first two weeks. We go from the buildup third to the final third in four passes, when it's done real clean, and it's really hard to defend. Today, we had to actually figure out how to defend against ourselves, which isn't always easy.   I think what (the Arizona leg of preseason) does is it presents itself as an opportunity to play both sides of the ball against an opponent that doesn't know what we're trying to achieve, being able to really compete the right way, as we did in LA. Those games are more sharpening the sword to get to Vancouver the sharpest --- most clear understanding on both sides of the ball, clear understanding as to the mentality, the culture, the competitiveness --- just really honing those details as we play those four games.

On Carlos Andrés Gómez coming into the team, anticipated to be this week

You won't know until he's on the ground. What we've done this year, which has been really good, is set a certain physical parameter that each player must reach before moving on to the next layer of physical work. We'll see how he is when he gets here. It's very difficult to train on your own. The fitness has to be soccer fitness, and that's why we've been playing so many (11v11 games) --- the game is the best teacher.   It's really important we get him into good physical shape, knowing he's coming from a league that's really controlled as far as possession is concerned, where here, it's a lot of transition. We want to make sure that the first game he steps foot in, he is going to be confident in all his abilities, to show well, to feel good about himself. The same thing goes for Savarino and any new player that gets here.

What the guys have done here in the first three weeks is create an environment, a competitiveness, where these guys are ready to go if those guys aren't ready. That's what it's all about.

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