What to Expect
Ok so let's be up front and honest, trying to predict a preseason match line-up is a lot like picking the winning lottery numbers: you might get a few numbers, but getting them all right is slim to none. One reason for this is that the coaches will still be experimenting with the squad - especially since the roster is finally compete with the return of Luis Gil and Nick Rimando. Other reason is that preseason is about getting back into form, so don't expect RSL to field a full strength squad but do expect a whole bunch of substitutions. In any case, we are going to give it a try and explain our reasoning.
2015 is expected to be a season of change and from many aspects that assumption appears true. One of the biggest is the shift in formation from the Claret-and-Cobalt's traditional 4-4-2 diamond to the more modern attacking 4-3-3.
According to our fan prediction lineup poll from yesterday, 67 percent of fans agreed that RSL will field a 4-3-3 formation. We would have to agree with the fans.
The 4-3-3 formation seems the most likely as RSL coach Jeff Cassar has used this formation in every preseason match so far this year. As such, this formation seems to be the future of this club.
While this formation is as versatile as any other, in RSL's case, we should expect the Claret-and-Cobalt to field a four-man back line, a holding midfielder - box-to-box midfielder - attacking midfielder combination, and an attacking corps made up of two wingers and one center forward. (Similar to the Portland's Timbers' formation in 2013.)
Goalkeeper - Nick Rimando
With Rimando returning from U.S. National Team duty he will likely start for the Claret-and-Cobalt and 78 percent of fans agree with us. Since Jeff Attinella has played in all of the previous preseason scrimmages, we assume the coaches will want to see how Rimando gels with the rest of the squad and directing the backline of a new formation.
Expect Attinella to be subbed in a half.
Left Back - Demar Phillips
As one of the new members of the squad, 79 percent of fans picked Demar Philips to start at left back. Despite routinely interchanging Abdoulie Mansally and Philips for this position, we here at RSL Soapbox believe that Philips will start so the coaches can observe his interaction with Rimando. As the presumed starting left back, it will be interesting to watch Philips play with the Wall of the Wasatch for the first time.
Expect Mansally to take Philips' place for the second half.
Center Back Pairing - Aaron Maund and Elias Vasquez
One thing is clear here, the RSL coaching staff has remained consistent in center back pairing. So far this preseason, the Claret-and-Cobalt have fielded either a Chris Schuler - Jamison Olave or an Aaron Maund - Elias Vasquez backline pair.
While fans suggested that Schuler and Olave would start (85 and 87 percent, respectfully), we think the coaches have other plans. The coaches will likely start Maund and Vasquez with the veteran presence of Rimando to guide them. Similarly to Philips, the coaches will want to see how Vasquez responses to Rimando's presence and how they work together before the start of the season. RSL has been built upon a solid defensive foundation and the coaches will want to experiment with it before the season starts.
Expect Schuler and Olave to take the field after the intermission.
Right Back - Tony Beltran
In order to add a veteran presence along the backline, Tony Beltran will start as right back. 89 percent of fans agree with us that Beltran be in the starting XI against New England. Coinciding with previous reports coming out of the RSL camp, Beltran is taking a larger conducting role with the departure of Nat Borchers and will be vital in keeping the young center back pairing of Maund and Vasquez in position.
Expect Boyd Okwuonu to replace Beltran before the second half.
Holding Midfielder - Kyle Beckerman
Collecting 92 percent of the fan vote as well as ours, skipper Kyle Beckerman will start against the 2014 MLS Cup runner-up New England Revolution. Beckerman's solid defensive play as a number six will be vital for the new faces among RSL's back line in this match. Expect Beckerman to make vital recoveries and dictate whether the backline pushes forward or falls back.
Expect the USL talent of Pecka to take the place of Beckerman sometime during the second half of the match.
Box-to-Box Midfielder - Luke Mulholland
Expect the presence of Luke Mulholland to fill the role as the starting number eight. With nearly 70 percent of the fan vote, Mulholland is yet another pick that both the fans and we agree on. His constant workhorse attitude and ability to play on and off the ball, he will provide support for the younger attacking corps and screen the backline.
With a breakout season (hopefully) on the horizon, expect the youth talent of John Stertzer to be subbed in at the half.
Attacking Midfielder - Luis Gil
Fresh from yet another Klinsmann camp, Luis Gil will come back to the Claret-and-Cobalt in better form and fitness - despite Jurgen's deflecting comments. Gil will likely start for the Claret-and-Cobalt to demonstrate his increased role with the club. With 76 percent of the fan vote, Gil barely beats out Javier Morales for the number ten role. Like the fan we also found ourselves wondering who would fill this role, but past preseason matches suggest that Gil will be used to build team chemistry.
As Gil acclimates to his new role with the Claret-and-Cobalt, expect Morales to fill the playmaker role sometime in the match.
Wingers - Olmes Garcia and Jordan Allen
With RSL approaching the midway point in the 2015 preseason, the attacking experiments will continue. Despite having low fan rankings, we expect Olmes Garcia and Jordan Allen to be a part of the starting lineup. With Cassar trying to figure out the new look of his club in a new formation, understanding the possible contributions of young players in the final third will compel him to give them many of the preseason's match minutes. Having good showing in the first three preseason matches, Garcia and Allen will continue to show the coaching staff what they can bring to the club.
Other option for the coaches -although less likely - would be Javier Morales moving to either wings in order to play a trequartista role for the club. Similar to Diego Valeri moving out wide early in the 2014 season, Morales could add an additional attacking treat on the wings.
Expect the experience of Sebastian Jaime and Emery Welshman to replace the youth talent in the wings later in the match.
Center Forward - Devon Sandoval
Despite fans picking Alvaro Saborio to start with 87 percent of the vote, we think that Devon Sandoval will start. We assume that Sandoval will get the start in order to give him more time to adjust to the new formation. Playing an important role for RSL so far this preseason, Sandoval will push for a goal and harass New England's defense before being replaced in the second half of the match.
Expect Saborio to replace Sandoval as RSL's number nine after intermission.
RSL Soapbox Predicted Lineups:
First Half: Nick Rimando; Demar Philips, Aaron Maund, Elias Vasquez, Tony Beltran; Kyle Beckerman, Luke Mulholland, Luis Gil; Olmes Garcia, Devon Sandoval, Jordan Allen.
Second Half: Jeff Attinella; Abdoulie Mansally, Chris Schuler, Jamison Olave, Boyd Okwuonu; John Stertzer, Pecka, Javier Morales; Emory Welshman, Alvaro Saborio, Sebastian Jaime.
Fan Predicted Starting Lineup:
Nick Rimando; Demar Philips, Chris Schuler, Jamison Olave, Tony Beltran; Kyle Beckerman, Luke Mulholland, Luis Gil; Olmes Garcia, Alvaro Saborio, Sebastian Jaime.
At RSL Soapbox we care about our fans and would like to know what you think. Do you think that there is anything we missed? Are there players that we overlooked? Do you agree with our predictions or do you have your own? What do you think these lineups mean for Real Salt Lake? Share your opinions in the comments section below.