Javier Morales announcing his departure from Real Salt Lake on Thursday was the first shot fired in what is likely to be an explosive offseason in Sandy. For years we have all known that there would be a time when the core group of players that we have loved for so long would dwindle and eventually disappear.
This will happen in professional sports and we have been lucky to have so many of the guys stick around for as long as they have. We are a family and this is what we expect the club to do. There are, however, some drawbacks to keeping a core such as ours together for so long and refreshing the roster from time to time should not only be expected but encouraged. Though I am still in the denial phase of RSL without Javi, I want to try and shed some light on the current situation of the roster and what things could look like over the next few months.
First off, Javi leaving is horrifying: the things that nightmares are made of. That said, it starts us down the path of what could amount to a true rebuild. As I see it we have a real need to clear a fair amount of cap space to be able to bring in some reinforcements while also making it easier to keep some of our young and talented players happy and well paid.
Javier was up for a raise at the end of this season that would put him close to $600,000 yearly. Jamison Olave, who is also likely on his way out, made 215k with Olmes Garcia also around 160k. That alone is nearly 1 million dollars in wiggle room for Craig and Co to work with.
That’s just a start.
RSL’s backline is likely to look like:
Demar Phillips - Justen Glad - Aaron Maund - Tony Beltran
With Chris Wingert coming off the bench — at half his contract from this year — as a defender and Chris Schuler working into a rotation at center back.
The second half of the year there was some real progress from the defensive line. Justen Glad, though his youth showed at times, was stellar. I think that we all hoped that he would be this type of player one day, but that he has been able to adapt and grow into a starting role so quickly is amazing. Having Schuler back in play has been a god-send. I have been hesitant to jump onto the “SCHU IS BACK TO SAVE THE DAY” train up to this point, but I am getting there. My only concern with him is his staying healthy. If he can do that we have a real shout for the best center back pairings in the league for substantially less than most.
Midfield something like:
Kyle Beckerman - Jordan Allen/Luke Mulholland - Sunny
With Jordan, Omar Holness, and Danilo Acosta coming off the bench.
There’s a real shout for some money to be spent both here and in the attack (we’ll get there). When I look at what happened in the midfield this year there was an interesting change that happened right around where the season started to slide. In the beginning of the season we were well organized and, especially on defense, everyone played their role.
When things started to go poorly for RSL the midfield (and attacking wingers) were not as diligent in tracking back and working hard on the defensive side of the ball. We need to find that again. I think having Sunny back will help a ton in that regard, but you have to play him for that to work.
The midfield is now SCREAMING for a creative/goal scoring/chance creating #10 type to come in and really make waves. I would personally love for that responsibility be given to Jordan Allen — but let’s be honest and say that I am biased there. This is one of three areas that I really think Craig Waibel needs to look at allocating some cap space towards.
Plata - Yura - Burrito(?)
As of right now this should be the biggest area of focus in my opinion. Rarely do you see three really talented strikers cool off the way that our top guys did to end this season. Lack of depth at the striker position was exposed when Yura went down with an injury, Burrito seemed disinterested, and Plata was left to shoulder the burden of scoring for the three of them. Olmes Garcia, as stated above, is on the outs and has shown time and again that he’s just not the striker that we all wished he could be. He’s still young and could possibly find some form eventually, but for the money he is on here it doesn’t make sense for us to keep him around. That leaves our depth at striker at, well ... Velazco and Baez. Baez would have to have his loan extended and Velazco would have to actually be given a shot for us to really understand what we have there. Spending on a proven (this coming from a guy that is generally about playing young talent first...) talent could really make the difference for us next season.
You may have noticed that I left the keepers until last. I did that on purpose. This one scares me and I don’t like writing this. The rumors surrounding Nick to either LAFC or ATL make sense as I outlined here. Who wouldn’t want the Wall of the Wasatch to be their keeper? You’d have to be crazy to not. I think that Jeff Attinella is serviceable and could start for most teams in the league. If it comes to it I trust him in the net, but every part of me wants Nick to retire here. The way I see it at this point one of them will be here next year and the other will not. The hope if Nick is traded is that we get some serious allocation money to go along with all the TAM we’re getting this year so that we can get players that will help us make that next step in 2017.
There’s so much that will happen this offseason and so little time for us to really get things going for next season. I’ve left a lot of players out of this and to be frank that’s because I don’t think that any of them will be invited back. I really hope to see guys like Kavita and Okwuonu given a real shot at this club — but only time will tell what the future holds for these young players.