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With season quickly approaching, midfield battles for RSL become clear

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Luke Mulholland, after a fine performance on Saturday, will be looking to win minutes further down the road, but it's a squad packed with quality. He's not starting material (at this point, at least) and is in the group behind Ned Grabavoy and Luis Gil. That group includes Sebastian Velasquez, Cole Grossman, John Stertzer, Jordan Allen, and, potentially, Joey Dillon -- all for two spots in the midfield.

Now, we can temper that a little bit. Velasquez is also in line for the Javier Morales-playmaker position, as is Jordan Allen. Cole Grossman heads the search for the Beckerman backup, and this leaves the group for two midfield spots more manageable. We've narrowed the non-starting set to John Stertzer and Luke Mulholland -- leaving us with two clear options there.

Of course, Velasquez and Grossman will certainly get minutes in the middle too, so it's not quite as simple as I think I'd like it to be.

The question then becomes simple: Who sits where in considerations?

1. Ned Grabavoy

A veteran presence, a great attitude, and most importantly, the glue that holds the midfield together and connects our short-passing game.

2. Luis Gil

Good attacking thrust and an ability to control play that he's growing into. He showed well last season and will want to show even better this season. The best part? If he wants to meet the (currently very slight) chance to head to the World Cup in 2014, he'll need to be consistently one of our best players. He could do just that.

3. Sebastian Velasquez

He understands the system and is always willing to put the defensive shift in. The biggest difference from his arrival: When he puts the defensive shift in, he doesn't wear himself out trying. This could be a breakout year for him -- more so than 2013 could have hoped to be.

4. Cole Grossman

I suspect he'll get more time in the defensive midfield spot than anything, but Grossman surely has to be in line for minutes in the center as well. When we're looking to tilt a little more defensively, he can thrive -- he may be just behind Velasquez, but I'd wager he's a key piece off the bench when we're protecting a lead.

5. Luke Mulholland

If his play on Saturday was any indication, Luke Mulholland could be truly ready for first-team minutes from the start. He showed a good eye for a pass and a neatness to his play that our system craves.

6. John Stertzer

Despite being with Real Salt Lake for a second year, Stertzer is still somewhat of an unknown quantity. Having spent most of 2013 injured, he'll be looking to make a palpable impact this year. There's no reason why he can't -- he's a Grabavoy-like figure, and there's value in having a backup that can somewhat replicate his play.