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Sandy • Chris Wingert and Tony Beltran took turns maneuvering around defenders Thursday morning at America First Field before the Real Salt Lake outside backs practiced respective crosses into the box. Alternating targets making runs were Joao Plata and Sunny.
Those defenders were yellow plastic mannequin kind.
Assistant coaches Tyrone Marshall, Richie Williams and Ted Eck tried their best to simulate life as a scorer, each giving Plata and Sunny a breather by timing their runs into the box to try and provide Wingert and Beltran a target to aim for.
That's life during RSL's early-season bye week.
With players nursing injuries, plus international call-ups and this weekend's season opener for Real Monarchs, the number of players at America First Field Thursday was seven. Those who trained fully: The four above.
Burrito Martinez and Jamison Olave, both suspended for the next match at Sporting Kansas City on April 2, went through fitness drills together. Forward Olmes Garcia, who missed the 2-2 draw in Portland due to a first-degree ankle sprain went through technical drills before an early end to his day.
"It's just a week where everyone is trying to heal up from injuries," RSL coach Jeff Cassar said.
The rest of the available RSL first-teamers are training with the Monarchs ahead of the Saturday match against St. Louis FC at Rio Tinto Stadium. Cassar estimates 7-to-8 players suiting up, and by seeing who wasn't in Sandy Thursday, the most educated string of guesses goes as follows: Jeff Attinella, Lalo Fernandez, Jordan Allen, Justen Glad, Omar Holness, Luke Mulholland, Devon Sandoval and John Stertzer.
As the Monarchs soon kick off their 2016 campaign, Cassar said he held a group conversation recently about instances throughout the season when first-teamers will be assigned to the Monarchs for USL matches.
"It should be a one-time only conversation," he said. "I think the guys are seeing how important it is for fitness, for sharpness, but then it's even more important that they go down and bring the right attitude to that group and try to help them in some way be leaders, work on different qualities that they have to work on, too."
Cassar also upped the ante, too.
"I said they have to be the best on the field [with the Monarchs]," he said. "It's not about going down there and just playing. It's about being the best. If you're not the best there …"
Monarchs coach Freddy Juarez said earlier this week that in 2015 some first-teamers looked at not cracking a RSL game-day roster and playing with the USL side as a possible demotion.
"It wasn't that," he said. "You're getting fitness, so when you're called upon by the first team you can actually contribute because you're fit and you're in rhythm."
» Updates on RSL injuries
Javier Morales, Yura Movsisyan and Nick Rimando were absent from Thursday's training session. Morales is still dealing with a rib contusion suffered in Week 1 in Orlando on March 6.
"I think we're going to have to look and see how he feels day-to-day," Cassar said. "It could've been a fracture in the ribs, but at the end of the day, you don't treat those [injuries] all that differently. It's pain."
Movsisyan left the match in Portland with a groin strain after scoring his first RSL goal since Oct. 2009. Cassar said giving Movsisyan time off from training in this bye week is precautionary.
As for Rimando, Cassar said RSL's goalkeeper recently suffered a minor foot injury at home.
"It's sore, but it's all precautionary where he's doing all the stuff back the stadium, so he'll be fine," Cassar said.
» Monarchs have a new voice
Freddy Juarez said the signing of former RSL center back Chris Schuler provides the young club a voice and a direction on the field that the team will benefit from when the 28-year-old center back returns to a full bill of health.
But Schuler, who signed with the Monarchs last week, is still working his way back from foot surgery last fall that left him with a 4-to-6-month recovery process. Juarez said he would like to keep away from putting pressure on Schuler to suit up a bit longer so that when the club has him at 100 percent, "he stays that way at 100 percent."
Juarez estimates Schuler is anywhere from a month to a month-and-a-half away from being in contention to play for the Monarchs.
"We're not risking it," he said. "He could play 30 or 40 minutes right now. But he's a player that will make a difference in the MLS, and we need to get him back to where he was. And we think maybe a little bit better than what he was before."