Five moments that defined Real Salt Lake's 2013

USA TODAY Sports

#5 - Javier Morales signs a new contract

The year started off with a bit of stress: Javier Morales, playmaker-in-chief, signed a new contract with the club.

After the departures of Will Johnson, Fabian Espindola and Jamison Olave, RSL fans weren't ready to lose another key player -- and neither were the team and the player himself.

Morales returning proved a good sign for the future of Real Salt Lake, and while he will inevitably decline, having him for at least one more year aids our chances in the short-term and the long-term.

#4 - A new group of strikers signs

A slew of talented strikers signed in 2013: Olmes Garcia, Joao Plata, Devon Sandoval, and Robbie Findley. Each contributed significantly at various points through the season.

Garcia, who came from Colombia, shined in an absence-filled summer, hitting his peak in the warmer months. He proved an exciting, skillful player who still has plenty to learn about the game.

Plata really found his form getting into more difficult months -- August through October were essentially his. There was some risk bringing him in, as he was part of an incredibly dysfunctional locker room in Toronto, but he fit in perfectly at Real Salt Lake.

Sandoval surprised everyone and was a playoff starter; not only did he not look out of place, but he was an incredibly important piece. As a second-round draft pick, nearly everyone was surprised about that, but a calm mentality and a commitment to hard work pushed Sandoval through his first season.

Findley had some difficult months, but he was an essential playoff contributor, and much of our success -- even if we did bow out at the last minute -- was down to him. He was a familiar figure, having made his name at RSL before departing for a poor spell in England, and there was some doubt in bringing him back. His resurgence at the most important of times, though, surely made the move a good one.

#3 - US Open Cup final v. DC United

For the first time in our nascent existence, we made the US Open Cup final, and as hosts, we were truly in the driver's seat. But we fell prey to the beast that is bunker-and-counter soccer, and it couldn't have come in a more painful fashion -- against the worst team in the league, at home, and in a match we were widely expected to win. The pain of this will live on.

#2 - MLS Cup final v. Sporting Kansas City

A second chance at an MLS Cup was in our hands, and Sporting Kansas City was perhaps not an ideal opponent. We were in scintillating form and clearly up for the challenge. But after 120 minutes of cold, cold action in Kansas City, and after 10 penalty takers, we lost by the slimmest of margins. The less said about this one the better: the wound is very much still fresh.

#1 - Jason Kreis leaves, Jeff Cassar steps up

The mastermind of the club's envied play, Jason Kreis, departed for greener pastures at the end of the season, and while the opportunity afforded him at New York City FC is a big one, it left us in the lurch. Jeff Cassar swiftly stepped in as our new figurehead. Time will be the judge, but initial indications are positive: He brings continuity to a club with incredible forward momentum.

Read: Life Without Kreis

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