During the past few years, the beginning of the season has been a known quantity for Real Salt Lake.
Sure, there were a few minor changes required here and there, but with a veteran core, the Claret-and-Cobalt were able to rapidly mesh during preseason conditioning and training at the high level needed to kick off the Major League Soccer season in strong form.
With the 2012 campaign about to ignite, Real finds itself in a largely unfamiliar position of having to break in new players in critical roles on the fly.
It could well be a trial-by-fire learning experience for a handful of those newcomers when the season kicks off at defending MLS Cup champion Los Angeles this weekend.
"It's frustrating for sure, but it's kind of a continuation of last season," Real boss Jason Kreis said of RSL's ongoing injury struggles. "It was exactly like this with one thing after another. We'll hope that, at some point here, we'll get everyone healthy."
Real signed eight new players to its squad last week to finalize the 26-man roster. The signings included four draft picks, and a pair of trialists, providing fresh, yet inexperienced, depth for its veteran core.
While RSL's injury woes have started to lessen in the latter stages of its preseason preparation, it's likely that at least two, and possibly three, so-called first choice squad members may be unavailable for the season opener.
"Whenever you can get guys back and healthy, it makes for a stronger team, so hopefully they can keep progressing like they have been and we can get back to full strength as soon as possible" said midfielder Kyle Beckerman, who himself nursed an injury for much of preseason camp. "We learned last year that there is going to be injuries and guys will have to step up."
The positive signs that the injuries are starting to heal came during the Desert Diamond Cup preseason tournament, during which 24 of the 26 players on RSL's roster logged time. Only veteran defender Nat Borchers and tenacious midfielder Will Johnson didn't compete during the four-match, 10-day tournament, which wrapped up on Saturday in Tucson, Ariz.
Real Salt Lake finished its 2012 preseason slate with a 2-2-2 record during two training stints in Arizona. RSL drew with Vancouver and D.C. United early in preseason competition, and then defeated New York twice, along with taking losses to Los Angeles and New England during the Desert Diamond Cup.
After spending the past five years using Xango Field, adjacent to Xango's worldwide headquarters in Lehi, Real Salt Lake will christen its new practice facility today. The Sandy-based America First Field is located just blocks from Real's home base at Rio Tinto Stadium, and is seeded with the same turf mixture as Rio Tinto.
RSL plans to use the pitch for first-team training sessions and MLS Reserve League contests.
You can follow Justin Johnson on Twitter at: @jjohnson801 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.