One of the true joys of preseason soccer is in getting to see the underutilized players on a squad, and Real Salt Lake's match today against Columbus Crew is no exception.
We've picked out three players we'll be paying attention to as RSL wraps up their contention in the 2016 Desert Diamond Cup.
One of RSL's draft picks this year, Amankona brings something more to the team than height — which is good, really, because he's actually shorter than Joao Plata. In the limited minutes we've been able to see him during this preseason, he's looked live a livewire in the attacking midfield spot. He ran at players, he had good distribution, and he showed excellent dribbling abilities.
Of course, that was 30 minutes of one match we were able to see Amankona play in, so this match will be more telling. At this point, it doesn't appear he's looking at a first-team contract in his first season, so he's a strong candidate to play for Real Monarchs. And that may just be perfect for him as he develops his play, because with this sort of ability, he's likely to be playing regularly.
With Luke Mulholland out of contention because of a quad strain (or something of that sort), Stertzer has a chance to show what exactly he's worth to this team. The first season when he played any sort of regular minutes was last year, and that was because of weird, freak injuries — a broken leg here, a concussion there.
How Stertzer plays largely depends on where he plays. If he's expected to fill the Kyle Beckerman role, he's likely to stay home and spray passes wide; if he's instead filling in for Mulholland in a box-to-box role, expect to see some great late runs.
Joining from Real Monarchs this offseason, Welshman has an opportunity to show why he should be considered off the bench for Real Salt Lake. He's surprisingly strong for being a pacy player, and he has, at times, showed outstanding goalscoring capabilities.
But those goalscoring opportunities haven't fallen regularly for Welshman so far, and we have yet to really understand what he'll bring to this 4-3-3, and in what position. He played central for Real Monarchs in addition to starting out wide, so there are also questions here about where he plays, if he does.