Who or what is most important to Real Salt Lake having a good season?
Randal Serr: The answer to this question has to be Javier Morales. If you look at the seasons from 2008 to 2013, the times when Javier Morales was out or not fully healthy were the toughest times for RSL. THere are no signs of Morales slowing down, so I expect him to have another fantastic season. If I were to give a bit more outlandish answer to this question, I would say Cole Grossman. Beckerman is likely to miss a decent amount of games due to international callk-ups and it looks like Grossman will be his backup.
Kreg Asay: Scoring goals! The preseason hasn't been very productive on the scoring front, but that's primarily down to focusing more on defensive work as well as integrating the new players into the team. While the defensive work is good if it leads to less goals against, if we don't counter that with scoring we'll struggle in the long run.
Wes Brown: Chris Schuler. Coming off his return to form late in 2013, Schuler needs to be able to continue that success through this year. It's imperative for his center back partner Nat Borchers as it'd be difficult for the team to implement the rotating door policy again. It'd also help to boost the defense's contributions to the attack; Schuler had two goals in the playoffs (more than any other defender on the team, a rarity) and was a nuisance on set pieces in almost every game he played in. The blow has already come, though, as it's been announced that the rumor is true -- Schuler's foot is still not healed even after having the surgery that was supposed to fix it. The first hurdle for the club is getting him healthy again. If that's successful and Schuler replicates 2013 form, RSL's season has a lot of promise.
Charles Barnard: The most important player on RSL this season will be Chris Schuler. After coming back from injury he showed how important he was on both sides of the ball. With Cassar saying that he wants to get more bodies into the attack it will be even more more importantl to have Schuler in the back to break up any counter attacks. Schuler staying healthy will be vital to the success of RSL.
Chad Loveland: I would venture that either Javier Morales or Luis Gil are the most important to RSL having a good season. If Gil can take the next step, it would really help RSL to move past some of our rivals. Javi has been the engine driving this whole thing, so he is very, very important. So often as Javi goes, so does RSL.
Matt Montgomery: The easiest answer, for me: Jeff Cassar. If we're to succeed, he has to have the squad on the right tactical page. For the last five years, the bulk of the team has been playing in roughly the same system, and if it doesn't work out under Cassar's reign - for whatever the reason, it won't be easy to change. By removing the biggest tactical decisions from his control, he'll need to focus on what he can control, and that's what will be most important to finding success this season.
Who is poised to have a breakout season this year?
Randal Serr: This question could be answered with a few different names. I am going to go with Luis Gil even though you could make a solid argument for Olmes Garcia or Sebastian Velasquez. Luis Gil did have a nice 2013 campaign, is still not at the level he is capable of reaching. I think he is going to have a big 2014 and really cement his place as one of the best young stars in MLS. I foresee a handful of goals and assists and a more prominent role in the offense for Gil.
Kreg Asay: After watching the preseason games and highlights, I think Mulholland will be a major factor in 2014. His free-kicks were near Javi-like, and he played a role in just about every goal and shot on goal when he was on the field. I sincerely hope that Gil also steps up this year; last year he was good for a few, then a non-factor for a few. If he wants a National Team role that has to change. If Gil can't adapt then Mulholland or Velasquez will likely get more playing time in his place. Lastly, Velasquez is due. All things point to him having his best season in 2014 - in 2012 he played in 9 games, took 7 shots, but no goals or assists. 2013 saw him in 24 games (including playoffs), taking 25 shots with one goal and 3 assists. The big question seems to be how much competition Mullholland will be since they both look to fill the same niche.
Wes Brown: Luis Gil. 2013 was a watershed season for Gil as he upped his minutes played, and his tangible and intangible on-field contributions were better felt. Unfortunately, he wasn't quite clutch enough at times when the team needed him. This season needs to be a continuation of that growth, and he absolutely needs to step up in those clutch moments. Increases in those tangible ways (goals and assists) in key matches is going to go a long way in developing him further, even if it's only a few additional in each category.
Charles Barnard: I have been hyping Jordan Allen since first seeing him in reserve matches last year. Seeing him play in preseason only increased my positive view of him. The RSL coaches seem to be very high on him as well. It seems like he is poised to get more playing time than one might expect.
Chad Loveland: Breakout season? I'd say either Olmes GArcia or Devon Sandoval. If one of them can take advantage of Findley's absence, they both can do a lot of damage to other teams. Both scored a good amount of goals for RSL rookies. Do they come into this year stronger? Another close option (but without as clear of a shot at starting) would be Sebastian Velasquez. He can cross over people better than nearly anyone on the team. Hopefully he can figure out ways to get on the field more, as there are plenty of times we could have used his creativity.
Matt Montgomery: John Stertzer had a 2013 to forget. He came in hotly tipped to make the first team in short order, and following that, he did get first-team minutes fairly early on. He looked likely to earn more minutes, but a shoulder separation ruled him out for most of the remainder of the season. This year, preseason saw Stertzer look better than where he left off - an effective side-of-the-diamond player. If he earns minutes early, he has a great opportunity to show what he can bring to the table - putting him in pole position to have a breakout season.