Mike Petke - RSL manager - smiling
USA Today Sports

Other than right back competition, Real Salt Lake easing in its newcomers

HERRIMAN, Utah -- With two weeks left before the start of the regular season, Real Salt Lake is still happy to stick with what was working at the end of last season.

Their nine new additions aren’t being rushed onto the field, save for one exception: the battle at right back.

With club regular Tony Beltran out with a knee injury, Homegrown Player Aaron Herrera and former Blackburn Rover Adam Henley are the two main replacement options, and neither has sewn up the spot for themselves just yet.

“Aaron and Adam they both did very well [in Tucson],” RSL head coach Mike Petke said. “The outside position are ones that seem to be a bit of tight race right now and that’s what you want. You want the players to push themselves.”

Meanwhile, Danny Acosta and Demar Phillips are both trying to tie down the spot on the left-hand side that each held for a time last season.

Danilo Acosta greets fans | USA Today Sports Images

Aside from the addition of a goalkeeper, the rest of the new faces will have to integrate into some parts of the attack.

Spanish forward Alfredo Ortuño has been with the team from the start of the preseason, but he hasn’t played a meaningful game in more than six months. So Petke and staff are ramping up his playing time slowly, even after he scored a goal in their second preseason game against San Jose in Tucson.

“We have a system that we know where we want him to get to,” Petke said. “He’s slowly getting integrated with our tactics and there are other things he needs to get up to speed with in how we play. He just got here and it’s going to take a while.”

That stands in stark contrast to how midfielder Albert Rusnak was brought along last preseason. He didn’t join the team until halfway through their trip to Arizona, and didn’t feel ready to contribute until a month or two into the season.

“He’ll be more fit and once you’re more fit you can show your quality on the field,” Rusnak said. “We’re giving him time. He doesn’t need to score goals now, he needs to score goals once the season starts.”

With the two new midfielders RSL expects to join them in Orlando, Damir Kreilach and Pablo Ruiz, Rusnak is more concerned with getting them integrated in the locker room than necessarily pushing them out on the field right away.

“Hopefully they’re both quality players and they bring quality to the locker room,” Rusnak said. “It should be competition on the field, but off the field it’s important to have a good locker room and hopefully the nicetwo new guys will fit.”

While Ruiz is a player who could play a role this year, he’s most likely a piece for the future. Petke should be relying moreon the veteran Kreilach heading into 2018.

“He’s very experienced. He’s played at a high level,” Petke said. “He plays the No. 8 the way I like it. It’s bringing in more competition, more decisions I have to make.”