Real Salt Lake does not have an ideal practice situation this week.
Saturday's game against FC Dallas will be played on grass at the Cotton Bowl, but RSL is practicing on FieldTurf at the Spence Eccles Fieldhouse. Team officials have tried to get permission to use Utah's women's soccer field for practices, but have had no luck.
"It is disappointing," coach John Ellinger said. The only practices the team will have on grass before Saturday's game are on Brigham Young's Hawes Field on Thursday and in Dallas on Friday. RSL did hold a couple practice sessions on Utah Valley State College's soccer field before the April 9 game in Los Angeles, but the team decided that field was not flat enough.
"We have just got to move on," Ellinger said. "I would rather put them on this surface than on a surface where they could get injured."
Only two of the 11 Major League Soccer venues have an artificial surface: Rice-Eccles Stadium and Giants Stadium at the Meadowlands. With RSL's away match against the MetroStars out of the way, all the rest of the team's road games will be on on grass.
A partial solution involves the sod the team will put down at Rice-Eccles prior to the U.S. national team's World Cup qualifying doubleheader with RSL's June 4 game against Dallas. The tentative plan right now is to move that sod to a suitable site and fence it off for a practice field.
General manager Steve Pastorino guessed that last Saturday's crowd of 25,287 fans for the home opener was the biggest attendance for a professional soccer game in state history.
He was probably right.
According to assistant coach Chris Agnello, the former coach and owner of the Utah Blitzz, the largest attended games before Saturday were the Blitzz's exhibition game against the Colorado Rapids' reserve team in 2000 at Rice-Eccles Stadium and their first PSL national championship game in 2001 at Franklin Covey Field. Both games drew about 7,500 fans.
Tickets for the doubleheader game June 4 against FC Dallas went on sale Monday. Team officials said 17,000 tickets were sold on the first day, meaning the game should be sold out by the end of the week. . . . Defender Eddie Pope sat out of Tuesday's practice because of a cold, but Ellinger did not seem overly concerned. Pope is expected to play Saturday.