If there's one area where Real Salt Lake could use improvement, it's in getting more players involved in directly contributing to goals.
We can talk all day about how some players contribute in less tangible ways - about how being good in build-up play is as important as scoring a goal - but when it comes down to the line, it's important that we get more players scoring. Let's take a look at 2014 and see where we could use improvement.
Four players in 2014 contributed 68 percent of the goalscoring across the team. RSL scored 53 goals in regular season play, and the contribution is pretty lopsided. Joao Plata (13 goals, 25 percent), Javier Morales (9 goals, 17 percent), Alvaro Saborio (8 goals, 15 percent) and Luke Mulholland (6 goals, 11 percent). The other 32 percent of goalscoring from nine players, leaving a total of 13 goalscorers. Four of those players contributed only one goal, so we can segment it even further.
Our top four players contributed 68 percent, and a further five players contributed 25 percent. That's 93 percent of our goals scored from about 36 percent of our team. (I've removed our goalkeepers from that list because, well, they're not going to score goals unless they're very, very lucky.)
Now, surely you could segment any data and come up with something like this. I could probably make a case that our goalscoring was spread about the team better than most, but let's be frank - it wasn't. In our top goalscorers, two are forwards - Joao Plata and Alvaro Saborio, and one of those was out for an extended period, playing less than half the season. Two are midfielders. Two of our other forwards appear on the list of goalscorers - Robbie Findley had one and Olmes Garcia had three- while Devon Sandoval had none. (We won't include Sebastian Jaime as he was a late arrival and played minimal minutes.)
This isn't meant to castigate the team for lacking goalscoring prowess. Remarkably, 2014 was our second-best goalscoring year - second only to 2013. This, despite lagging 11 and 15 goals behind league leaders Seattle Sounders and LA Galaxy, speaks volumes about our goalscoring in general with this team. It's always been good but rarely been spectacular. We could argue that 2014 was an unusually goal-laden year, and there is almost certainly something to that, but it avoids some tricky questions.
Could Real Salt Lake do better in general if goalscoring is more spread out? If more than 13 players had scored goals - and some of them certainly should have netted at least one - things might have been more comfortable. This, despite having the second-best goal difference (15) in the league - a feat we shared with Seattle Sounders and D.C. United.
As we look toward 2015 for ways we could improve the team, this could be one. If we can get Garcia, Jaime, and Sandoval to contribute in a tangible way alongside Plata and Saborio, maybe we'd find ourselves in more comfortable positions in matches. This could be important to our success as we look for a first Supporters Shield - or as we move into CONCACAF Champions League.