45 days after losing a heartbreaking MLS Cup Final to Sporting Kansas City, Real Salt Lake returned to training camp last week in Arizona, and before heading out to California to continue camp, the team held its annual Media Day Tuesday at Rio Tinto Stadium.
"Camp has been great," said midfielder Sebastian Velasquez. "It's great to be back and get our legs moving again and to see the guys get back from holidays."
"It was a real exciting end to the season last year," added midfielder Kyle Beckerman, who got married during the break. "The season was really fun, and then this year with a new head coach and having the World Cup, we really didn't need a rest this year. Maybe next year."
For some players though, the off-season couldn't end soon enough.
"It has been a quick off-season," said defender Tony Beltran. "But, that's OK. After about three weeks, I start to feel like I have no purpose in life, that I'm just waiting for the inevitable, and that is to get back out there and start working again."
While most of last year's team is back, RSL is sporting new uniforms and a new head coach. Jeff Cassar has officially taken over for Jason Kreis, who left after seven seasons to become the new head coach of New York City FC, and Cassar says he couldn't contain his excitement when training camp opened last week.
"It did feel really good, I got to be honest," Cassar said with a smile. "But once we got going, it was down to business. It felt really good to be out there with the guys. It had been six weeks since we lost in the final, and it was important to put that behind us and start looking forward to this year."
The players seem to think this will be a very smooth transition from Kreis to Cassar.
"Jeff has been a head coach in my eyes for years now," Beckerman said. "I know his values, his philosophy is very similar to what we've already been doing."
"Surprisingly, it wasn't all that different from previous years," said defender Nat Borchers. "Jason obviously was a big personality, and [Cassar] has big shoes to fill, but after one week of training with Jeff, it's been really good and positive."
"I don't think we're going to miss a beat," added goalkeeper Nick Rimando. "Jeff has been around for a while and he knows the guys, he knows the culture that we have here. We're a real tight nit team, so I think once we get on the field, we're going to have that same goal and that's to win a championship."
Real Salt Lake kicks off the 2014 season March 8th in Los Angeles.