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Depth Assessment: RSL depth continues to impress through first half of season


It's been some time since we assessed the depth of the squad, and given we've seen a good slew of matches since then and that we're nearly at the midway point of the season, it would be particularly interesting to go through it again.

The goalkeeping position looks as good as it did last time around, if not better. Nick Rimando's in the form of his life, Josh Saunders is a capable if unspectacular backup, Jeff Attinella has started showing glimpses of his future after going on loan then performing better for our reserves, and Lalo Fernandez is developing into a steady force after having wrist issues last year.

Goalkeepers | Grade: A | Who can complain about four effective goalkeepers in the squad, with three of the four ready for their first real chance?

Moving further up the pitch, let's break out our center backs from our full backs, as the positions are radically different in scope. The central defense, to some extent, seemed deeper than almost any other spot out there, even if the depth did lack experience. That assessment was fairly accurate, but some mitigating factors have cropped up.

Nat Borchers, first, has recovered well from early injury and has been the steadying force we so desperately needed. Chris Schuler showed well then started showing worse and is now injured once again - for how long is anybody's guess. Kwame Watson-Siriboe struggled for a match or two, but he's picked up his game and played more physicality. It's suited him well. Carlos Salcedo has come along much faster than anybody would have expected, playing substantial minutes and showing well during those. Aaron Maund struggled during his one senior appearance (as did everyone during that half against Charleston Battery, but he's been good for the reserves.

Central defense | Grade: B | Some figures have stepped up well, but injuries could hurt us in the long run.

Full back is an interesting position that has, over many years, developed into a position in which attacking qualities are perceived to be more important than defensive qualities, at least until defensive holes crop up and the pendulum swings back the other way. In reality, it is a hybrid role that serves as a case study in the long-term development of the game.

Tony Beltran has continued developing at a fine rate, and it's difficult now to not describe him as one of the best right backs in MLS. Jurgen Klinsmann seems to agree, as he's slowly integrating him into the U.S. Men's National Team setup. His season started slightly rocky but has moved forward effectively. Chris Wingert, who started the season injured (have we noticed a pattern here?), has - like everyone else - had a game or two that was slightly frustrating. He, too, has picked up well. His crossing is still less than perfect, but his defending is perfectly suited for a side that often relies on him to step into the midfield.

The backups have done fairly well, too: Lovel Palmer has been reliable if a step down from Beltran and Wingert, and Abdoulie Mansally has showed the attacking force we sometimes need from that position to disrupt defenses. Rich Balchan sustained an early injury but look fine for the reserves - he'll be interesting to watch when he comes back from his shoulder injury.

Full backs | Grade: B | Palmer and Mansally are fine backups, but without Balchan, there's not excessive depth here. It's nothing to be worried about, but we could always use more.

Given the rotation that takes place across the midfield now, it's difficult to separate out most of the midfielders from the positional pack. The obvious exceptions: Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales. They've both been very good; Beckerman has been a better attacking presence and has shown why it is he's captain, while Morales has recovered his ability to break defenses with his pinky. Ned Grabavoy has had a fine goalscoring season, but in general he has done far more than score goals. His propensity for attack - and the physical qualities that demands - have been a real benefit to our side.

The second tier is perhaps the most interesting group in our squad. Khari Stephenson has shown his rocketfoot changes games, and he's been our Open Cup savior once or twice (or maybe something between). Luis Gil has had good moments and bad, which is fairly commonplace for event he most talented youngsters. Sebastian Velasquez is as exciting as ever, but more importantly, he's dropping into defensive positions much better than he ever did last year. Velasquez does, however, need to work on his metering of energy, as he often wears himself out by the time the second half roles around. Yordany Alvarez, rounding out the second tier, has looked very good at defensive midfield.

After suffering a nasty concussion, Cole Grossman is back and playing in reserves matches; evaluating him for those recent matches would be a little unfair, as he missed out on even mundane training for some time. Enzo Martinez has been a bit back-and-forth but has at times been incredible for the reserves. David Viana has looked surprisingly unfrustrated with his playing time or lack thereof, as he hasn't made it on the pitch. John Stertzer, rounding it out, looked good early on but suffered a shoulder separation and will miss significant time.

Midfield | Grade: A- | More is needed from some of the midfielders individually, but as an assessment of depth, it's hard to argue.

The forward position is perhaps the most exciting for us this season, and it's easy to see why. Even with Alvaro Saborio missing swathes of the season so far, we've had little to no trouble finding goals, despite our occasional struggles. With the return of Robbie Findley, the arrival of Joao Plata and Olmes Garcia, and the drafting of Devon Sandoval, things are looking positive.

Saborio's injuries have been frustrating, but he still leads our side in goalscoring with four - a mark to his lethal scoring touch. Findley has been a frustrating figure, but he brings to the side a tactical flexibility we've lacked in recent years. There's also a sense that Findley's on the cusp of returning to his best, but repeated injuries have put a stopper on that progress at times. Joao Plata has been fantastically creative but lacked finishing, but reassuring is the fact that he's in the right positions. Olmes Garcia has been magnificent if slightly injury-prone, but sometimes, he does seem to lack the vision that will surely develop as he ages. Devon Sandoval has been somewhat the biggest surprise, as the rookie has been a difficult force for defenders to deal with - and he's been very much the reason we've progressed twice in the US Open Cup.

Forwards | Grade: B+ | Each of our forwards has been frustrating in their own ways, but they've also been fantastic in their own ways. Things are looking better than perhaps we expected at the season's start.