Real Salt Lake's midfield is, as ever, the foundation of its play. This hasn't changed under Jeff Cassar particularly, but it's something that remains perennially the case.
It's worth taking a look at our midfield and assessing our options, and given we're literally at a midway point in the season, there's no better time to do so.
We should ask ourselves a few questions, including the following:
- Is our midfield good enough to last out the season, even if we sustain a significant injury?
- Can our midfield continue to improve as the season progresses?
- What sort of options should we be looking at, if we're to look at any?
And so on and so forth.
Defensive midfield / deep-lying midfielder
Kyle Beckerman is our captain and the key to our system as much as anybody could lay claim to being. We saw this against New England —
Cole Grossman is second in-line, and while he's not Beckerman-quality (yet! He's got plenty of time) he's a good midfielder and this is probably his best position in the system.
John Stertzer isn't going to be our top defensive midfielder, but he'll make an appearance later on the list. He did play here in a two-man DM setup that looked passable.
Carlos Salcedo gets a shout for having played the position in reserves games, but he's probably better as a center back.
Ned Grabavoy is the top player here. No surprises.
Luis Gil is in a secondary spot, as are all other following players here, which is something of a problem. We have no clear-cut second choice alongside Grabavoy in a spot that demands consistency.
Luke Mulholland has done well in his first half-season at RSL, even if he's struggled at times. It's a tough position and made more difficult by a lack of 90-minutes-fitness from Mulholland. He'll get there, I hope.
John Stertzer has had a mixed go at things, but Friday's game against New England was his first stand-out performance. If he continues to grow at the position we'll have a real battle for midfield minutes emerging. But does that help us?
Cole Grossman is deeper in the depth charts here, but he's an option at the side of the diamond. At this point in his career, it does seem that we're trying to give him a positional identity.
Sebastian Velasquez has had his own set of problems with which to deal off-the-field, and that's made it difficult for him to find minutes on-the-field. It's hard to say much about him right now, but he'll need to step up in his playing to find minutes consistently.
Javier Morales is the one and only, and there's no changing that, really. He plays in spite of his age, and his form has been generally good. His dips have come with the team, and while it would be nice to see him bucking that, it's only inevitable that his playmaking falls short when there's less movement around him, and when he doesn't have the forwards playing to their potential
Luis Gil can play this position, and maybe it's a better spot for him. He's the heir apparent for the spot when Javier Morales retires, but will he stick around in the long-term?
Sebastian Velasquez struggles as above, but he's certainly a more attacking player naturally than he is a defensive player.
Do we need somebody?
We've got a lot of overlap positionally, and that's good — cross-training boosts everybody — but one player who can either step in and win minutes on the side of the diamond would be to our benefit. But if we don't want to kill that fight for minutes, a young, third-choice player in that spot could boost our depth a bit. Maybe an academy player would be a great fit there.