HERRIMAN, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – It has been five and a half months since Real Salt Lake last played a game. But the wait is almost over.
RSL kicks off the 2021 schedule Saturday at Minnesota United, as they complete the longest off-season in team history.
“This off season was something new to me and to everyone else,” said midfielder Albert Rusnak. “But again, it’s one of those things you can’t affect as a player, so if you’re going to moan about it or be upset about it, you’re only hurting yourself.”
With COVID-19 hitting last March, last season was obviously unprecedented. RSL did not play well, finishing second to last in the Western Conference, and scoring a conference-low 25 goals.
But with several new additions this season, most notably forwards Rubio Rubin and Bobby Wood, Real should be able to find the back of the net more often.
“Last year was not good enough from our standard,” Rusnak said. “We know we’re better than that. I wish I could tell you everything is going to click right away the first game of the season away at Minnesota. There’s an option that it takes a few games for us to gel together.”
“We are very excited about the first game,” added Damir Kreilach, who led RSL with nine goals in 2020. “We want to come back to Salt Lake with a result and then to build our confidence.”
RSL played Minnesota United three times last year, and didn’t score a single goal against them. Minnesota opened the season last week with a 4-0 loss to Seattle, so RSL expects a fired up team on Saturday.
“We’re expecting a very good team,” said head coach Freddy Juarez. “It’s one of the best teams in the league, definitely one of the best teams in the West. We have nothing but respect for them. We know we’re going to go in there and play a very well organized team that’s tough to compete with, but we’re expecting the same from us.”
Two Real Salt Lake legends are now in the coaching ranks, with Kyle Beckerman named the head coach at Utah Valley last week, and Wednesday, Nick Rimando was named a coach with the RSL Academy.
“An opportunity came about with RSL,” Rimando said. “They reached out to me and we had conversations. I wanted to be involved with Real Salt Lake. I didn’t know in what capacity. It was just something that we kept an open line of communication. They presented something for me, I looked it over and it just seemed right.”