The 2015 Real Salt Lake season was dreary at best. The Claret-and-Cobalt finished ninth in the Western Conference – missing out on the MLS postseason for the first time in eight years – and scored only 38 goals – second worst in the league, above the Colorado Rapids. After losing a great deal of veteran experience through drafts or ill-crafted (in my humble opinion) trades, the seemingly great youngster that were brought in to build the club flopped.
Not only did names like Elias Vasquez and Pecka disappear into the summer stretch, but talent like Luis Silva never really found a foothold in the club. The offense remained almost a complete mess once the ball crossed the center-circle and RSL’s defense had seen better days. Even with a respectable 26-23-19 record (0.41 win average) at his time at the helm, many fans started to call for the head of Jeff Cassar. Even owner Del Loy Hansen, amidst all the spin, suffered as he watch his team stumble into the offseason.
Last week, however, the atmosphere changed from gloom and doom to buoyant and cheerful in just a matter of days.
"I’m excited," exclaimed Hansen during Yura Movsisyan’s media announcement. "I’ve never been, after six years, more excited to start a year because I just think there’s a great group of people that have a mission."
Kyle Beckerman echoed this sentiment at the RSL media day saying, "This is really an exciting time for our fans."
In just the last month, RSL has acquired a clinical finisher in Movsisyan, a talented, internationally tested veteran in Sunny Obayan, and the potential of Generation Adidas and young Jamaican international Omar Holness. These signings alone are enough to bring a smile to the face of many fans. While these names themselves are not exactly slam-dunks, these names could become a force to be reckoned with in this league in combination with the remaining veteran core of Salt Lake.
"Nick [Rimando], Kyle [Beckerman] and Javier [Morales], those three in particular, embody everything the club is about," Beltran told the media. "They’ve built this club."
Rimando and Beckerman, previous Generation Adidas players themselves – then called Project-40 – were drafted by the Miami Fusion. Coming into their tenth season with the club, these veterans have built the defense while Javier Morales as focused on the offense.
After years of success these players finished what many refer to as ‘the worst year at the club.’ Yet this has not broken their spirit.
"Once you’ve been kicked a little, you come back different," explained Hansen during his prediction of the 2016 RSL season. "If you’ve been successful all the time, you kind of take it for granted. RSL got kicked and it hurt. People thought about it."
Real has also stuck to their guns and remained firmly grounded in their new system. With the Western Conference continuing to get better, Salt Lake appears to be making strides to, as Beckerman puts it, "Get back to what Real Salt Lake is about and what we have built so far."
"This can be a totally positive year," the skipper continued. "One where we are continually progressing, even when we don’t get the results. Progressing in our style of play, performance and so that will be our big goal – just keep improving and progressing in our hard work that it is going to take to get the results and get back to where we want to be."