MATHIS, POPE TO SHARE RSL FIELD FOR FIRST TIME: Real Salt Lake DF Eddie Pope arrived in Bradenton after midnight last night, even enduring the aggravation of having the airlines temporarily misplace his baggage. Pope, who spent 36 hours house-hunting in Salt Lake City between his 90-minute performance for the U.S. National Team in its 2-1 World Cup Qualifying win against Trinidad and his arrival last night, is expected to join U.S. icon Clint Mathis in the starting lineup vs. the Crew, playing the first half prior to giving way to Nelson Akwari.
RSL PROBABLE STARTING LINEUP:
GK - Countess, DF (from left to right): Behncke, Pope, Dunseth, Pierce, DMC - Kamler, MF (from left to right) - Brenes, Williams, Selolwane, F (from left to right) - Mathis, Kreis (captain)
RSL INJURY REPORT
OUT: MF Evan Whitfield - food poisoning, DF Jeff Stewart - R knee, FW Chris Brown - L ankle
REAL SALT LAKE CAPTURES FIRST PRESEASON WIN: With a 49th minute Stephen Rhyne goal and an assist from MF Luke Kreamalmeyer, Real Salt Lake defeated the San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 on Sunday morning to capture the team's first-ever victory. Head Coach John Ellinger rolled out the following lineup:
GK - Palmer (Cullen 46); DF - Jackson, Halilovic (Watson 67), Lookingland, Flores; MF - Cutler (Ara 46/O'Brien 67), Brenes (Cutler), O'Brien (Kreamalmeyer 46); FW - Rhyne, Watson (McElligott 46)
RSL MF Kevin Ara was ejected in the game's 62nd minute for his second yellow card on a hard tackle. First-half starters Jamie Watson and Leighton O'Brien, who had come off at halftime, replaced DF Senad Halilovic in the 67th minute to bring the teams back to even level, after San Jose enjoyed a man-advantage for 5 minutes. While Head Coach John Ellinger continues to insist that the results of these preseason games are meaningless and just part of the team's 60-day plan to prepare for April 2, he and Assistant Coaches Peter Mellor and BJ Johnson, as well as the entire RSL roster, were visibly excited and pleased for the "historic" win.
KREAMALMEYER TO RECEIVE FITZGERALD TROPHY: In recognition of RSL rookie Luke Kreamalmeyer's MVP performance at the 2005 MLS Combine, held January 9-13 at The Home Depot Center in Los Angeles, Debi Fitzgerald will present the first-ever edition of the Tom Fitzgerald Memorial Trophy. The halftime ceremony will recognize the Bradley University product, selected by Real Salt Lake in the fourth round of the 2005 MLS SuperDraft.
HISTORIC RSL ITEMS AVAILABLE FOR AUCTION: In addition to autographed training jerseys signed by Eddie Pope and Clint Mathis, a pair of RSL/adidas balls will be autographed by the entire team and placed into an auction, which will benefit the memory of Tom Fitzgerald, the former MLS, UCLA and University of Tampa head coach for whom today's game is dedicated. The auction of these RSL items, along with various memorabilia donated by the Columbus Crew, D.C. United, adidas and Tom's wife, Debi Fitzgerald, began today at 12:00 noon ET on RealSaltLake.com, theCrew.com, dcunited.com and ut.edu, and will run until 12 noon ET on Friday, Feb. 18.
ELLINGER HONORED TO REMEMBER CLOSE FRIEND: Tom Fitzgerald and John Ellinger coached together on several occasions during the last 15 years, including the inaugural 1996 Columbus Crew staff and on the U.S. National "B" team that participated in the 1992-93 World University Games. "Tom Fitzgerald was a very dear friend of mine and to be able to participate in a soccer festival in his honor means a lot to me," said Ellinger. "Having these historic RSL items benefit Tom's legacy to the sport in this country is indescribable."
CHECKETTS MEETS TEAM FOR FIRST TIME: Arriving at IMG Academy mid-afternoon on Thursday, Real Salt Lake owner David W. Checketts met the players as a group for the first time during RSL's 1-1 draw with the U.S. U-17 National Team. At the team dinner that night, Checketts expressed gratitude to RSL FW Clint Mathis for scoring so quickly in his RSL career. "I told him I hoped it was the first of many," said Mathis, whose 30-yard freekick found the back of the net mere hours after arriving at RSL camp from Trinidad, where Mathis traveled with the U.S. World Cup Qualifying Team. "And I need to do it when it counts before anyone gets excited."
TEAMMATES IMPRESSED WITH BESAGNO: Real Salt Lake's 16-year old MF Nik Besagno, the #1 overall pick in the 2005 MLS SuperDraft, played 90 minutes against his future teammates as part of the U.S. U-17 National Team in Thursday's scrimmage. The "Generation adidas" player was physical against future mates, and was roundly praised for his tenacity. The Maple Valley, Wash., native will finish his high school education in June before focusing on helping the U-17s qualify for the World Youth Championships, first out of CONCACAF in June and then in Peru in September.
BRADENTON HOME FOR SEVERAL RSL STAFFERS: With current RSL and former U-17 Head Coach John Ellinger bringing the team to his former Bradenton, Fla., home for the first three weeks of training camp, it represents a homecoming of sorts for several RSL players. FW Jamie Watson, and MF Kenny Cutler are the most recent graduates of U.S. Soccer's development program, while MF Bryan Jackson and GK DJ Countess advanced into the professional ranks in the late 1990's. Four more members of the technical staff, including GK coach Peter Mellor, athletic trainer Jake Joachim, equipment manager Braden Chandler and team administrator RJ Noto also spent several years with Ellinger at the residency program.
WATSON DIARY DEBUTS MONDAY ON REALSALTLAKE.com, MLSnet.com: Beginning on Monday, Feb. 14, RSL rookie FW Jamie Watson's diary will debut on RealSaltLake.com and MLSnet.com. The former U-17 and North Carolina star will provide dispatches from training camp several times weekly from Bradenton, Portugal and California from now until the opening of RSL's inaugural regular season.
BOSNIAN DEFENDER SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED, IN CAMP: 22-year old Bosnian DF Senad Halilovic saw the completion of his visa paperwork allow his arrival into RSL camp on Friday Halilovic trained with the team that afternoon and Saturday morning before playing 62 minutes against San Jose Sunday morning. The 6-4 central defender has meshed well with the team on the field, despite his inability to speak virtually any English.
COUNTDOWN TO PORTUGAL BEGINS: 22 RSL players will meet on February 24 at Kennedy Airport in New York to convene for the second leg of preseason training in Monte Gordo, Portugal. RSL FW Clint Mathis and DF Eddie Pope are not expected to make the trip, instead attending the U.S National Team's camp in preparation for the U.S. v. Mexico WCQ in Mexico City on March 27. RSL MF Pablo Brenes also will not make the trip due to Costa Rica's Gold Cup qualifying camp, which begins on Monday, Feb. 14. Injured RSL players Chris Brown (left ankle surgery rehab) and Jeff Stewart (right knee arthroscopic surgery) also will not make the trip.
RSL REGULAR-SEASON SCHEDULE TO BE ANNOUNCED MONDAY: Dates and opponents for Real Salt Lake's inaugural MLS regular season will be released by Major League Soccer and RSL on Monday, with television coverage and kickoff times to be announced in coming weeks. As previously announced, RSL opens the season April 2 at New York against the MetroStars and April 9 against Los Angeles before kicking off its 20-game home slate on April 16 at 1:00 p.m. MT at Rice-Eccles Stadium.