2013 Player Profiles: Khari Stephenson never a perfect fit, but influential nonetheless

USA TODAY Sports

Khari Stephenson's impact on Real Salt Lake might best be described as "mixed," which doesn't tell you much, really.

The veteran midfielder, who started in MLS in 2004 and spent several years at Scandinavian clubs before returning to the league in 2011, didn't exactly fit the mold of a Real Salt Lake midfielder. He was certainly attack-minded, but in a year when nearly every other midfielder was particularly mobile, he stood out from the crowd, and not simply because he is very tall.

It is important for every squad to have a few players that simply don't fit perfectly in the system, and Stephenson was a perfect example. He was a fine passer and has a fantastic shot on him, but a midfield with him in it necessitates some changes in the way each other midfielder plays. Forcing those sorts of reactions allows coaches an opportunity to work out problems iteratively, asking themselves perhaps which changes worked or didn't.

But his impact was surely more than just standing around and booting the ball to teammates; he wasn't a goalscoring dynamo by any stretch, but he did some of his most important work in the US Open Cup. He scored the eventual match-winner in the third round of US Open Cup against Atlanta Silverbacks on perhaps one of the rainiest nights in memory at Rio Tinto Stadium, as well as one against Charleston Battery in the fourth round of the competition.

Following the end of the season, Stephenson, who found minutes hard to come by from August forward, was released. Where exactly he ends up from here is difficult to say, but he certainly has something to offer to an MLS-level midfield at this point in his career.

Editor's note: This is part of a series of player profiles recapping the 2013 season and previewing the 2014 season. Player ratings were compiled via a vote by RSL Soapbox writers. Statistics are via mlssoccer.com.

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