After a few days off to celebrate the holidays, RSL returned to practice on Sunday with a spirited 90 minute session that featured a variety of drills. It was good to see Alvaro Saborio back to what appears to be close to full fitness, Chris Wingert was also an active participant but I believe he is still in some pain from the rib injuries suffered in the first leg against Portland. Devon Sandoval missed practice but Jason Kreis was confident (as was RSL PR man Sam Stejskal) that Devon would be ready to go by MLS Cup.
The drills started out small with smaller groups taking on each other in passing and possession drills and the scale kept getting larger and larger as practice went along, towards the end the keepers and groups of players broke off and started working on taking and defending PK’s (a sure sign that we are in full playoff mode).
Listening to a number of players and Jason talk after practice the group is fully aware of the task in front of them, they seem very focused while someone remaining relaxed. Perhaps that is the veteran influence as RSL has a good number of players from the 2009 MLS Cup win on their roster (Nick Rimando, Chris Wingert, Tony Beltran, Nat Borchers, Kyle Beckerman, Ned Grabavoy, Javier Morales, and Robbie Findley) and with 6 straight seasons of playoff runs and this years US Open Cup run, every player on the roster has dealt with high pressure situations. That experience should provide a calming effect next Saturday as the big match hype has to be dealt with.
I was able to catch up with a couple of players after practice, first up is Lovel Palmer:
I was also able to get some comments from Tony Beltran about both MLS Cup and about the breakout year he is having.
It was great to see both Josh Saunders and Kwame Watson-Siriboe out at practice doing work as part of their recovery, it is amazing that while he season is still going the boys will be reporting for January training soon and the 2014 season is just around the corner as well.
One thing that struck me as I watched practice and as I talked with some of the reporters and such that were there as well, is how while RSL has this incredible group of veterans with such experience that there is also a group of young players waiting to write their own version of RSL history and how fortunate we are to have so many exciting players in each group. I know that it will be asked of Jason over the next few days, what he intends to do after the season, but as a guy who has built this team step by step I sure hope he hangs around to watch the young guys develop. Every team in MLS has some great talent, but when you consider that we have 15 players under 25 and another 4 just a couple years older, it is clear to me that RSL is going to be a very good team for some time to come.
Anyhow, if you want to check out some of my pictures from practice today, you can do so on my f4denz google+ page.
I found out Sunday that my credentials for MLS Cup were approved, I had wavered on if I wanted to go or not, but it seems likely that I will be able to provide you with some coverage later in the week live from Kansas City and MLS Cup, so stay tuned.
That’s How I See It