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Real Salt Lake Kicks off 2022 Preseason

January 20, 2022 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - Real Salt Lake News Release


HERRIMAN, UT - Real Salt Lake kicks off 2022 preseason with 39 players in camp, a total which includes 22 returning options from the roster that advanced to the Western Conference Final just six weeks ago. Several starters return from last year, including team MVP Damir Kreilach, homegrown rearguard members Justen Glad, Aaron Herrera, GK David Ochoa and Andrew Brody, midseason additions M/F Jonathan Menendez and FW Bobby Wood and international veterans DF Marcelo Silva and MF Pablo Ruiz.

As previously announced, veteran winger Justin Meram re-signed with Real Salt Lake during December's MLS free agency period, with the Claret-and-Cobalt also signing MF Scott Caldwell, formerly of the New England Revolution. RSL's 2021 Humanitarian of the Year, GK Zac MacMath, is back for his third Utah campaign, as are former Real Monarchs standouts DF Erik Holt, MF Nick Besler and M/F Mikael Chang

RSL FW Rubio Rubin - third amongst RSL's 2021 goalscorers with eight goals and five assists in his debut season - will join the Club's preseason festivities later in February due to recently conducted abductor surgery on the former U.S. international. Homegrown DF Zack Farnsworth will also miss time due to an arthroscopic procedure on his ankle.

2022 RSL PRESEASON SCHEDULE (ALL SUBJECT TO CHANGE)

Herriman, Utah

NOW - Sat., January 22: Physicals / Fitness testing at Zions Bank Training Center

Tucson, Arizona

Mon., January 24 - Wed., February 2: Training in Tucson, Arizona

Sat., January 29: Match #1 against Grand Canyon University - 11a MT

Wed., February 2: Match #2 against Houston Dynamo FC - 11a MT

Herriman, Utah

Fri., February 4 - Sat., February 12: Training at Zions Bank Training Center

Wed., February 9: Match #3 against Utah Valley University - 11a MT

Portland, Oregon

Sun., February 13 - Sat., February 19: Training in Portland, Oregon

Sun., February 13 - Match #4 against Opponent TBD

Wed., February 16 - Match #5 against Opponent TBD

Sat., February 19 - Match #6 against Portland Timbers - 6p MT

Several non-roster invitees look to seize the opportunity to impress Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni and his staff - which now includes new assistant Brett Jacobs, in addition to Matt Taylor and "Nacho" Hernandez - ahead of the Club's 2022 MLS season opener at Houston on February 27 and RSL's Rio Tinto Stadium season debut on March 5 against Seattle. Many of the younger / less experienced players likely competing for time with the Real Monarchs' debut season in MLS NEXT Pro this March, as Head Coach Jamison Olave evaluates options.

Veteran MLS defenders Edgar Castillo and Doneil Henry arrive with the most prominent reputations amongst the non-roster invitees. Castillo - the former U.S. National Team left back, and one of just three players to have appeared internationally for both the U.S. and Mexico with senior national teams - has appeared 66 times in the last four years for Colorado, New England, Atlanta and Cincinnati, following 19 seasons playing professionally in Mexico, appearing in 306 games for eight different teams.

Canadian international Henry arrives in Utah after spending the last two years in South Korea with the Suwon Samsung Bluewings, appearing in 41 games. In the decade prior to his Asian expedition, Henry appeared in 109 matches for MLS sides Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps, on either side of a three-year European stint with West Ham, Blackburn and Danish side AC Horsens. The TFC Academy product and Canadian U-20, U-23 and senior national team standout scored his first MLS goal at Rio Tinto Stadium, a 77th-minute equalizer for Toronto in an eventual 3-2 RSL win back in April, 2012.

FW Chris Garcia returns to RSL for 2022, following an abbreviated loan spell at Swedish second division side Ljungskile SK. Garcia, a former Monarchs player who impressed greatly last preseason, has fully recovered from the knee injury suffered last October. Also returning for 2022 is Tate Schmitt, the former RSL Academy / Monarchs player who spent most of last year on loan to Phoenix Rising FC (USL Championship).

Seventeen of the 39 names available during the upcoming Herriman, UT / Tucson, AZ / Portland, OR preseason stints are RSL Homegrown players, including 11 signed prior to the last four seasons (five announced last week) - GK Gavin Beavers, MF Julio Benitez, FW Axel Kei, DF Jaziel Orozco and MF Jude Wellings. Three of the Club's Academy signees from 2021 are also in the mix, as MF Bode Davis, GK Jeff Dewsnup and DF Zack Farnsworth join 18-year old Monarchs veterans FW Yukeson Subah and MF Christian Nydegger.

Both of last week's MLS SuperDraft selections have arrived in Utah, as Louisville standout Pedro Fonseca - one of three Cardinal members in camp - and Pitt DF Jasper Löeffelsend are present. 2021 draft pick MF Bret Halsey (Virginia) looks to build on his inaugural professional campaign after 19 Monarchs games a year ago. Other college-experienced invitees include Utah Valley University FW Evans Armah, Georgetown striker Derek Dodson, goalkeepers Jan Hoffelner (Kentucky) and Colin Shutler (Virginia), as well as Garrett McLaughlin (SMU) and Pierre Reedy (Penn State).

Twelve players from a year ago do not return for 2022, including MF Albert Rusnák (FA - signed with Seattle Sounders), FW Anderson Julio (loan expiration) and DF Toni Datkovic (trained Tuesday in Herriman, expected to sign with former Spanish club FC Cartagena following completion of mutual termination agreement).

2022 REAL SALT LAKE STORYLINES TO WATCH

First Full Year Under Pablo Mastroeni

Following the team's successful playoff run that saw RSL feature in the Western Conference Final, Mastroeni saw the interim tag removed from his title after 100 days at the helm to become the sixth head coach in Club history. Under his tenure in 2021, RSL went 8-8-1 during the regular season, advancing RSL into its 11th postseason in 14 years. In his first full season at the helm, Mastroeni will look to leverage the belief the team saw in latter half of 2021 and build a winning culture in Utah.

International Network of New Ownership

As the Club's roster begins to take shape ahead of the earliest opening game in Club history (February 27 at Houston Dynamo FC), new ownership has provided General Manager Elliot Fall and Technical Director Kurt Schmid with a deeper and expanded network to potentially fill the RSL roster. Owner David Blitzer's stake in multiple clubs across Europe (Crystal Palace - ENG; Augsburg - GER; Estoril - POR; ADO den Haag - NED; Alcorcón - SPN; Waasland - BEL) could provide the opportunity for RSL to acquire an array of players with international experience to bolster its roster. On the other hand, current RSL players could see the opportunity to join those teams in Europe to gain valuable experience similar to Andrew Brody and Pablo Ruiz's Fall 2019 venture to Austria (FC Pinzgau Saalfelden) before returning to RSL and contributing significantly.

Fans First

Since RSL moved into Rio Tinto Stadium in October, 2008, its fans have provided a dominant home-field advantage - a .771 winning percentage and 2.06 points per game - while helping the Club to the most aggregate MLS points earned during the regular season (409). Last season saw RSL set a new club record with seven consecutive wins at home en route to a 9-4-4 overall mark on Utah soil, solidifying its extreme advantage in Sandy and propelling the team to the top tier of MLS as a perennial postseason participant. RSL's 11 playoff appearances in the last 14 seasons include five Conference Finals and 10 Conference Semifinal berths, second only to Seattle during this period.

In 2022, new ownership has committed itself to expanding the fan experience through all levels of the organization, its venues and its online presence. Fan support has always been at the center of everything the Club has done and with a new era of RSL beginning in 2022, the Club ensures itself to the fan experience to help maintain its home dominance.

Carrying Momentum

As fans were reminded last season, anything can happen in the MLS Cup Playoffs, and one must always "#BELIEVE" in the Claret-and-Cobalt. Under then-interim boss Mastroeni, the team was galvanized at the end of the season to qualify for the playoffs in possibly the most dramatic fashion MLS has ever seen. From the "Damiracle" in Kansas City, a defensive masterclass in Seattle and come-from-behind drama in the return trip to KC, RSL's cardiac collective led MLS is goals scored after the 80th minute and in stoppage-time as well. Momentum in the locker room, in the fanbase and around the country began to bloom ahead of the team's postseason run, defying odds on and off the pitch amid the sense of self-belief RSL carried in the closing stages of 2021 is now a stated priority as Mastroeni's culture-building re-engages to help the team kick off the season on the front foot.

Second-Year Players in Their First Full Seasons

RSL made a splash in the spring of 2021, announcing it had secured the services of Bobby Wood in a move that saw the former USMNT star join MLS for the first time in his career. Arriving during the summer, Wood featured in 17 matches and made 7 starts, scoring two goals. Wood will be looking to mesh with the rest of the squad through the upcoming preseason and make an impact for the season's entirety.

On May 29, 2021, RSL announced the signing of winger Jonathan Menéndez to bolster the team's attacking core. In 17 matches played, the versatile Argentine scored one goal and contributed five assists during his first season in MLS. Capable of creative and explosive plays, Menéndez looks to solidify his place within the team in a league in which quick, seamless adaptation has often proven difficult.

Homegrown Emergence and Pipeline Growth

Prior to the commencement of preseason, RSL announced five new additions to the roster, all Homegrown players from Real Monarchs and the RSL Academy. The Club has long prided itself on developing talent from within and has seen significant contributions from many of its Homegrown stars. What will the Club see in 2022 from its Homegrown players after it led the league again in minutes played by Homegrown players? Now with experienced Homegrowns such as David Ochoa, Justen Glad, Andrew Brody and Aaron Herrera, the core of the Homegrown pipeline can lead RSL to new heights following a 2021 season where 17 of the 32 players on the roster either developed through the Academy or Real Monarchs.

Homegrown Leadership

The RSL technical staff and front office sees a number of experienced "homegrown" individuals as well, with John Kimball, Rob Zarkos, Elliot Fall, Tony Beltran, Luke Mulholland, Jordan Allen and Jamison Olave each holding positions with the Club. These individuals - among many others - helped lead RSL through previous eras in other positions, now looking to build upon the successes of 2021.


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