Part two: Breakout seasons and vital players
In part two of our season preview, we have two questions on deck: Who is vital for Real Salt Lake this year, and who could break out of their role?
What does a successful season for RSL look like?
Randal Serr: A successful season is one much like the last 5 or 6, although if we are to be honest with ourselves, RSL should be winning some hardware. Ideally, RSL gets to a championship game and wins it. We know they are capable of doing it so I think it is fair to look for it.
Kreg Asay: I will consider the season a success if we make the playoffs again. I'll be overjoyed if we pick up any silverware!
Wes Brown: Garth said it best at the media luncheon the other day: the minimum goal for the club should be to make the playoffs, putting them in sole possession of second place for the longest playoff streak in league history. But that doesn't necessarily qualify as "success" for the club as a whole. The high expectations RSL have had for themselves over the years doesn't stop just because of a new coach. Full success is going to be defined as giving the fans what they've been begging for since 2010 -- more hardware. A championship in one of the two competitions they're in (MLS or USOC) is the only thing most fans will accept. And after last year's run to the MLS Cup Final, I don't think it's a stretch to demand another cup of our own.
Charles Barnard: It might be asking too much to ask RSL to be able to repeat the successful season they had last year. But I think you would have to consider it a disappointing season if RSL does not continue their playoff streak. Plus winning back the Rocky Mountain Cup would be nice.
Chad Loveland: A successful season would include taking back our Rocky Mountain Cup, lifting another trophy of some sort (SS, MLS Cup, or US Open Cup), and earning back our spot in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Matt Montgomery: Plain and simple, it's about making the playoffs. Finding success is a difficult thing in MLS - even as an incredibly consistent side, there's always a risk that you'll find your side outside the playoff spots come season's end, and that would only benefit us when we're looking at the 2015 draft.
What's the biggest risk we face?
Randal Serr: The biggest risk RSL faces is expecting the young players who flourished last year to do the same this year. They may very well be inconsistent and not have as good of a season as they did in 2013.
Kreg Asay: The growth of "big budget players" in the league. It remains to be seen if the late 2013, and offseason moves for the likes of Seattle, Toronto and the like will prove successful; but it does represent a significant shift in league dynamics. LA proved in 2011-12 that it is possible to use 3 DP's surrounded by budget players to win the cup, and now we're seeing the other teams take the gamble. Can RSL keep the 'team is the star' mentality if we're forced to follow suit and get a superstar?
Wes Brown: Getting through the potentially slow start to the season and past the World Cup. These tactical adjustments Cassar is implementing aren't fully integrated yet, and the numbers we're looking at committing forward is going to expose us for a bit until we can make things second nature. Starting four of the first six games on the road against tough teams is going to be difficult, too. The mark for the season to start looking greener could be as late as the July 4th game against New England. If the squad can get past the potential for early season woes and look for the post-World Cup games, they should be golden.
Charles Barnard: The biggest risk RSL faces won't actually come until after the 2014 season concludes. That is when we will find out if general manager Garth Lagerwey is leaving the team or not. It will be a disaster on multiple fronts if Garth decides to leave.
Chad Loveland: The biggest risk, I would say, is trying to keep too much the same. We've had some success but let's not ignore that we've fallen short on several occasions. The young pups deserve to get their chances, and we need to rest some of the vets more than we have.
Matt Montgomery: Managing the health and injuries of our veteran core, combined with bringing along our young players at a reasonable pace, presents a difficulty for Real Salt Lake that won't be easy to solve for. Our carryover minutes from last season are quite high, and they've been quite high for a few years now. Perhaps our biggest strength is exactly that which presents the biggest risk, because we're certainly not getting any younger.