With the new MLS season drawing near, we are excited to bring you the EiF Soccer MLS Preview, continuing with the 1-time MLS Cup winner, Real Salt Lake.
Real Salt Lake Preview: Can RSL’s young guns lead the team to that elusive second title?
Team: Real Salt Lake 2016 Finish: Sixth in the Western Conference (12-10-11), eliminated in the knockout round Ryan Huettel’s Projected 2017 Finish: Fifth in the Western Conference. Eliminated in the knockout round Key Player: Albert Rusnak Additions: Albert Rusnak, Brooks Lennon, David Horst, Chad Barrett, Sebastian Saucedo, Luis Silva, Jose Hernandez, and Matt Van Oekel Losses: Javier Morales, Juan Manuel Martinez, Jamison Olave, Jeff Attinella, Boyd Okwuonu, Phanuel Kavita, John Stertzer, Emery Welshman, Olmes Garcia, Pedro Baez and Devon Sandoval Projected Lineup: 4-2-3-1 – Rimando; Phillips, Schuler, Maund, Beltran; Beckerman, Sunday; Plata, Rusnak, Allen; Movsisyan
Real Salt Lake Season Preview- Reasons to be excited
Real Salt Lake return the core of their relatively successful 2016 side. Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando, and Joao Plata are proven MLS veterans that have offered consistent production over the past few years. Now resettled after an interesting spell in Russia- if I was a betting man, I’d take Yura Movisiyan to improve on last year’s production of 9 goals in 29 games. With the talented Albert Rusnak joining the mix, RSL boast a variety of attacking threat.
Across the back line, Beckerham will be an intelligent shield to two solid center backs in Aaron Maund and Justin Glad. Adding in the reliable Demar Phillips and Tony Beltran on the wings, if they can improve on last year’s solid showing, Jeff Cassar should be comfortable with his team at the back
Real Salt Lake Season Preview- Reasons to worry
The loss of Javier Morales. RSL without Javier Morales is like Utah without Mormons, it just doesn’t seem right. Although his role has diminished into late his 30’s, the loss of Morales’ creativity could still be difficult to replace.
I’m also sad to see Juan Manuel “Burrito” Martinez leave, I loved his dribbling ability last season, and he popped up with the odd goal and assist for the club. Although he’s gone, I’m leaving this short video up as a personal parting gift to one of the best nicknamed players in the league.
Sentiment aside, Real’s major issue will be a bit deeper in the middle of the field. As a Chicagoan, I saw a very decent Fire attack and average defense ruined by a lack of midfield presence last season. It’s hard to see Kyle Beckerman as anything but reliable, but he’ll be turning 35 in April and no amount of pilates can save even him from the inevitable slowing down that accompanies the late 30’s. Sunday Stephan has a great name, but I’m not particularly sold on the Nigerian as Beckerman’s pivot either. For RSL to function, Rusnak needs to be the kind of all-action #10 that he has the potential to be.
Real Salt Lake Preview- Player to Watch
The aforementioned Albert Rusnak. Rusnak is a creative, technical player, with a decent pedigree in the Championship and Eredevesie. While probably not on the same level as a Lodeiro or Almiron, Rusnak’s style of play should fit in well at RSL, and he could prove to be a steal at $450,000. Although young creative types can be hit or miss in the MLS, Rusnak looks to be a more than able replacement for Morales. Make sure you hit the mute button, and see for yourself below…
Real Salt Lake Season Preview– Season Outlook
RSL had a fine season last year. They started off as one of the hottest MLS teams before exploding in September/October. This year, they’ve added the youth and depth to potentially go the distance. In Rusnak, Allen, Lennon, Glad, Saucedo, Hernandez, Omar Holness and Danilo Acosta, they’ve got a number of players under 22 that will offer a breath of fresh air when called upon. Coupled with an ever-reliable core, if Rusnak is able to link defense with attack, Real should look to put together an ambitious campaign.