We've finally snagged our first Desert Diamond Cup win, and not a moment too soon. Seattle's defeat of New York Red Bulls last night means we're off to the final, which will be nationally broadcast on NBC Sports.
At any rate, there's plenty to take away from last night's 3-2 win over New England Revolution, so let's talk about those.
What we've learned
Sebastian Velasquez at the top of the diamond gives the player a chance to influence the match in a way he can't always from wider positions. His shot to create the opportunity for Devon Sandoval's tap-in was a great example of that. The wide positions in the diamond undoubtedly will be where Velasquez sees most of his 2013 time, but long-term, he's an attacking midfielder who will benefit from being played centrally. The indications from last night are overwhelmingly positive.
David Viana as a striker means a midfielder in a roaming role. It wasn't exactly his finest display, but it surely wasn't a bad one. Tactically, he misses a little when being played up front. Perhaps that will come in time, but I'd say he's better-suited for a midfield role. That's not to say he couldn't grow into a tactical piece as a second striker, but he's not quite there yet.
Carlos Salcedo is going to be very, very good — and it might not be long until he is. The young center back has improved every preseason match, looking more and more effective as a defensive leader. If he continues to develop at this rate, we'll be lucky to have a player of his quality.
Ned Grabavoy has the potential to really make an improved impact for Real Salt Lake this season. It's not like he didn't make a mark before, but his preseason performances have been fantastic. He assisted for both goals last night and took up great positions throughout. Additionally, it was perhaps again proof that he's better in the outside of the diamond than the top.
Khari Stephenson has started to look an effective player for Real Salt Lake. The first Desert Diamond Cup match saw him looking a bit off, but as the team's improved, so has he. He's not the youngest option for a midfield signing, but he brings a veteran head and a knack for long shots. They're game-changers, those.
I am increasingly confident in our midfield depth. Sure, we lost Will Johnson and Jonny Steele, who both played significant minutes (the former being vital, the latter being considerably less so), but we've added some good pieces. Cole Grossman and Khari Stephenson can both be expected to play substantial minutes in 2013, and John Stertzer could win minutes, too. Enzo Martinez, Sebastian Velasquez and Yordany Alvarez all look improved on 2012's showings, as well.
Our problem of not scoring seems to have faded, too. Magnificent.