Four players came in mid-season, some making a bigger impact than others — but all four undeniably strengthened the group in significant ways. A look at how all four fared in their months with RSL.
In the case that it wasn't already entirely clear that Real Salt Lake's squad has undergone some significant changes over the last year, let's take a look at those who have arrived through the year and ended the season with RSL.
It's best, I think, to start with the best. It's difficult (painful, even) to argue that Kwame Watson-Siriboe didn't make the biggest impact of the newcomers this year. The former Chicago Fire defender came in when we were at our injury-stricken worst, stepped into the side, and was considerably more reliable than anyone might have expected.
The reasonably young center back (aged but 25 through the season, so young for a defender but old for, say, a high schooler - which he's not, don't get me wrong) filled in for Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers and Chris Schuler at various times since his mid-season arrival for a 2014 fourth round draft pick.
In fact, he was so reliable as to make exactly 100 percent of his tackles (a mean feat matched only by the legendary Terukazu Tanaka) and a team-leading 93 percent of his passes. Now, sure, statistics aren't everything, and maybe it would be better to just use that photo of Kwame leaping over Darren Mattocks or something. Still, it's remarkable, you've got to admit.
But really, Kwame Watson-Siriboe was a revelation in defense. He went from playing 10 games for Chicago back (all in 2010) to 12 for us. Whether it was a case of serious mismanagement or perhaps of a player with broken confidence is hard to say definitively. Chicago's loss was, as they say, RSL's gain.
Just as Watson-Siriboe was bedding in at the club, so too was Kenny Mansally, who made his debut in the same match. A speedy, skilled wing forward for New England, Mansally had been released. Maybe he didn't quite fit the bill in the Jay Heaps regime, or maybe he requested a move, but in May, he was waived by his club. It's one of those "hard to say definitively" situations again, a bit.
We picked him up shortly thereafter, dropped him in at left back, and saw a revitalization of a player who was frozen out by possession-oriented tactics. Converting him from a left-wing-forward to a left back saw the player better able to utilize his skill set. It's where he plies his trade when with his national team, and with good reason: He's reasonable in the tackle, good in the air, and a demon on the wings.
Providing some much-needed width when on the pitch, Mansally will have been disappointed to spend as much time injured as he did, but he'll be hoping this new home treats him well in 2013.
Where do you start? Justin Braun is a pesky striker. He's constantly on-the-go, running and harrying and chasing and doing all those good, effective things you need your strikers to do in this system. That's good. But he lacks the other thing you need in this system: footwork. Technical skill. That sort of thing. It's the sort of thing that sets Alvaro Saborio apart from most target strikers, Braun included.
Will we see him back in 2013? I don't know. I don't think anybody can answer that yet. I do believe he's out of contract, and maybe we'll renegotiate with him, or perhaps he'll go off on his merry way and find someplace that suits his current skill set better. I'd love if he stayed, worked on that footwork, and became a stronger, better player as a result - but if wishes were horses and all that.
The young French-Portuguese attacking midfielder looks really exciting. Like, incredibly so. Still, we didn't see much of him this season, largely as he arrived late on, but also because Jason Kreis is infamous in that he takes his time to let players bed into the system and really get a feel for the team. I can't blame him.
There's a real sense that Viana could play a substantial role in 2013 - to my mind, it might be in a different system than we've seen in the past four years. We'll see, right?