You asked, we answered in our first mailbag of the 2016 MLS season.
While some of you insisted on submitting questions that were — shall we say — less than serious, we took our stab at them anyway. And, not surprisingly, most of your questions focused on the defense, which we'd rather not have to be talking about right now.
With any luck, we'll have a defensive signing in the next two weeks — RSL general manager Craig Waibel says he's in talks with two players and has three more lined up if these don't play out.
Without further ado, the questions.
Robert Galt asks... "The back was our major problem last season. We did nothing in the off season to fix it. Why not?"
Well, Robert, it was not for a lack of trying. The Claret-and-Cobalt lost out on three quality center backs, and that is not including Jerry Akaminko, who was a trialist with RSL during preseason. The club did, however, add one of the most elite defensive prospects in the nation with homegrown player Danilo Acosta. The problem, which you have probably noticed, is that the club is looking toward the future a lot and not focusing on the here and now. It is troubling that RSL hasn't been able to shore up the backline over the offseason, but the transfer deadline doesn't close until May or thereabouts. Hopefully a center back option will materialize in that time (See aforementioned Waibel comment). — Weston
Jeff Thompson asks... Where does Burrito get his hair cut? He's looking sharp!
Thanks for the question, Jeff. I don't know. Without Sebastian Velasquez on the team to give haircuts, I'm going to guess that it's probably at a shop of some sort. Perhaps a salon or a barber's shop. —Matt
Coke Cromar Koelliker suggests... How can RSL fix the defense, with the players on the roster, not an outside source?
Looking at the roster, there are several options for Jeff Cassar and company. Justen Glad is obviously the number one on the depth chart, but Danilo Acosta would be a close second. Moreover, Phanuel Kavita has shown promise with the Real Monarchs. Chris Wingert also showed very well as center back with New York City FC last year. In 27 appearances, he maintained a 79 percent passing accuracy and six defensive actions per 90 minutes. In addition, he only had one recorded defensive error the entire year marshalling an expansion backline. So with the way the Claret-and-Cobalt's centerbacks are playing right now, there shouldn't be anything preventing the coaching staff from experimenting with new blood. — Weston
Mark McClellan asks... "Can't we all just get along?"
We can't all get along. Not all of us, at least. That's like oil and water combining. It doesn't work, even if you shake really, really hard. Trust me, I've tried.
Mark also asks, "Turned the match off in the 89th min yesterday. Hearing result later felt like a bad dream. Am I still sleeping?"
With any luck, you are — and maybe I'm just a figment of your imagination, just like the ending to that television show everyone was so upset about. You know the one.
RSL Wire asks... How do you deal w/ the irrationality and self hate? Or is my positivity misguided? Should just give up and join the haters?
Good things don't come easy, RSL Wire. There will be growing pains. Follow my mantra, which I adopted after the sorrow of last year. The club continues to work hard for what they want, they give their all when they are on the field and it is evident. So too must the fans work hard to support their club, because fandom doesn't come without a fight - sometimes it is an uphill battle. Both the players and the fans have to remain strong and courageous since confidence is always half the battle; simply knowing that something can be accomplished by putting your mind to it. If somebody puts you down or criticizes you, just keep on believing in yourself and your club, turning it into something positive. To quote Branden Steineckert, "If you believe then just stand up on your feet, and shout it loud 'Real!'" — Weston
John Pedersen: "What are the current plans to develop more talent in our current community? Clearly purchasing talent will be hard for our market so the only way I see us being competitive is developing it."
Great question, John — there's a lot going on around the club in regard to this, so buckle up. First, Dell Loy Hansen has reportedly committed to investing heavily in the area by building some sort of academy infrastructure here. We don't yet know the specifics, but we know it's a big investment. That's one thing, but there's a difficulty here, too.
We've signed a number of young players who call the area home: Sebastian Saucedo, Fito Ovalle, and Danilo Acosta immediately spring to mind. But all three are young, and it doesn't mean we'll be able to turn them into the players they potentially could grow into. Obviously, Real Monarchs will help with that development, but at some point, we have to recognize that some players only show their true quality as they ease into their 20s.
That shouldn't excuse any not trying — I would hate it if we didn't try with each of these players — but it does provide a little background on why I think it's difficult.
To circle back to your question, they key is absolutely in getting an academy infrastructure in Salt Lake County somewhere and growing that way. Not every young player will want to be away from their family. I just hope we can retain Grande Sports Academy as an Arizona-based developmental academy, because they've been excellent so far. —Matt