In our weekly mailbag, we've been sent a number of questions that focus on defensive depth at Real Salt Lake. With RSL still yet to sign a new center back, we understand where you're coming from.
At the same time, improvements on the team have given me some cause for hope. RSL already looks miles ahead of where they ended last year, even without a new defender — and we're confident that's still coming.
Tanner Morrill asks: "How can Cassar say on #onframe that Olave was performing ok in Orlando? He was sluggish."
Well, Tanner, I was so inspired by your question (and by a number of other things) that I actually wrote many words about it. So here — check it out. It's called "Jamison Olave has been playing better than you think," and it breaks down my thoughts.
Kyle asks: "Why did @TheCrossbarRSL refuse to share his candy this past weekend?
To that, I can only apologize. I was otherwise occupied (which is to say, at a conference in Colorado learning about computer-assisted reporting.)
Jeremy Heeringa asks: "Can RSL sign both a CB and FB - CB obvious need but I'm nervous about Wingert/Phillips long term-both seem like should be depth."
Well, that's a good question. I mean, probably, yes, but it would represent a complete loss in confidence in Demar Phillips. I'm not convinced Phillips would make a great depth player — he's the sort of fullback you have to make part of your tactical approach. It's hard to say if that's been done during the offseason, given the only time we saw him, he earned a red card within 25 minutes.
Whatever the case, I'm holding out final judgment on Phillips for a few weeks. Bad games happen, and good players bounce back. We need to see our preparations from preseason really take hold, and we simply haven't had a chance to yet. Ask again in a few weeks.
Howie Smith asks: What will be the potential roster/potential positional needs when we get to international play? Where do we need more depth?
Great question. Honestly, it depends on who's called up — if Sunny gets called up for Nigeria (here's hoping!) and Kyle Beckerman gets called up for the U.S., then our midfield depth starts to get interesting, and maybe we see John Stertzer and Luke Mulholland. If Joao Plata and Yura Movsisyan both get called up, we start to see Devon Sandoval and Olmes Garcia. It's hard to worry too much about that right now, because we have some good options.
Carter Crosland asks: What do you expect from Big Dev this season? Will he see the pitch much?
With Yura Movsisyan as the certain starter, Sandoval's in a difficult position. The only way it looks like he'd see regular starting minutes is if Movsisyan is injured or if there's a tactical shift with two larger, more powerful forwards. It does present an opportunity for Sandoval to be that player we need off the bench — someone who can come on and win long passes late on when we need to stretch the field of play.
I wouldn't be surprised if he plays 25 matches, but his future at the club very much depends on how he adjusts to a substitute role.
RSL Wire asks: "If we were to re-sign theoretically healthy Schuler, would it be enough to secure CB position?"
Sure, but there are two issues with that: First, it's hard to determine whether Schuler is healthy in the long-term; second, it's hard to know when it could happen. When should we be certain he's ready to go? But yes — a healthy Chris Schuler is easily in the top tier of center backs in the league, and I'd love to keep him here.
RSL Wire also asks: "Also, can you speculate on his contract situation in general. Is it possible re-signing is conditional based on eventual health?"
There's not a room for speculation, but Craig Waibel has said as much in public.
Joseph Johnson asks: How does Mulholland fit in now with the emergence of Sunny?
If Mulholland can up his concentration and defensive thinking, he could easily be the first player off the bench, and he could be good rotation for Sunny and Kyle Beckerman. But he's now very much a second-string player, and by all indications now, that's a good thing.