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State of the Roster: RSL’s strong but incomplete roster needs reinforcements

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Real Salt Lake
“Never gonna give you up,” Petke tells Plata.
Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake coach Mike Petke isn’t exactly operating with a full squad at current, but his 2018 plans are almost certainly taking shape.

What does Petke currently have available to him? It’s a mix of exciting talent, good backup options, and players that may be looking at new surroundings come the start of the 2018 season.

Goalkeepers (1)

It’s been a long, long time since we were in this position: We don’t know exactly who will be our starting goalkeeper in 2018. I’m still betting that Nick Rimando returns to Salt Lake City on a new contract, but for now, he’s a free agent.

Connor Sparrow: I’m very, very comfortable with Sparrow as our third-choice goalkeeper, and I’d be excited to see him if he came in as a backup — but he has no MLS experience, and starting him now would be a difficult ask.

Questions to be answered:

  • Will Nick Rimando return to Salt Lake City for another season?
  • Who will be our backup keeper in 2018?

Defenders (6)

This is, I think, the strongest starting defense we’ve had in ages. Between Beltran, Glad, Silva and Acosta, we have an enviable starting group here. We are, however, a little thin in backup. Demar Phillips coming back is good for that, but we need help on the right. We also have only one backup center back, so another one or two of those would do wonders. Will we strike a deal with Justin Schmidt, or will we look toward perhaps a Taylor Peay-type from Real Monarchs?

Danilo Acosta: Start this kid. Start him regularly, and give him the opportunities he needs. He will be great. He could be a legend here. I’d like to see him get that chance.

Tony Beltran: Beltran is an excellent player, and we’re better off with him on the team — and not just a small amount of better-offedness. No, he will make a big difference for us.

Justen Glad: Take what I said about Acosta above and magnify it. Glad is maybe two years off that point now. If we can keep him in the long term ... well, the sky’s the limit for him — and maybe for us.

David Horst: I’m glad we’ve exercised Horst’s option — he’s an excellent third option behind Glad and Marcelo Silva.

Demar Phillips: We’ve signed Phillips to a new contract, and I think I understand it — if he’s a backup. It never hurts to have a veteran on the bench.

Marcelo Silva: What a revelation Silva has been. Wow.

Questions to be answered:

  • Who comes in as defensive depth for RSL?
  • Will Aaron Herrera finally sign at the club after a year of being expected to?

Midfielders (6)

Alright, before we get too deep here, let me put all my cards on the table: I really do think that Kyle Beckerman will return to Real Salt Lake in 2018, and I don’t think that’s particularly controversial. With that being said, I think our midfield is one piece away from being truly top of the line.

Nick Besler: We’ve never really seen Besler up close in an MLS setting, but we know he can marshal the midfield well enough for Real Monarchs. He’s a few years off from really, truly hitting his stride, but I think we’ve got a good long-term backup option here.

Jose Hernandez: He’s a long-term prospect, Hernandez, but he’s shown flashes of excellence for us in very limited minutes. 2018 should be a season where his aim is simply to get out there more often.

Luke Mulholland: I’m not shocked we’ve brought back Mulholland and Sunny both, but I do think we need to make a distinct decision on the direction for our midfield in 2018. Will we have a Beckerman-plus-one approach again, with the player selection dependent on the match circumstance? Or will we bring in a more permanent solution next to him, moving Mulholland to a backup role?

Albert Rusnak: This kid is perfection personified. Let’s keep him forever.

Sebastian Saucedo: It’s interesting to me that Saucedo was listed in the midfield, simply because we’ve tended to see him more on the outside as a forward — maybe that’s just splitting hairs. He’s a good attacking backup option, and I think he can carve out a very interesting space for himself in 2018 if he keeps his work up.

Sunny: I’m a big fan of Sunny as a sort of enforcer in the midfield, even if he gets himself into a spot of trouble now and again. But importantly, he hasn’t been in that much trouble, earning a yellow card only once every two matches. (I mean, that’s still a fair rate, sure.) As a backup to Beckerman, I think he’s very good, and as a partner in a stay-home role, he’s also been helpful. But the question remains: What do we want to do in the midfield next year?

Questions to be answered:

  • What does our midfield actually look like on the field?
  • What’s the line of succession look like after Kyle Beckerman retires? We’re not far off having to think hard about that.

Forwards (5)

Our forward line is both our most potent and most worrying for me, and it’s got those two qualities in basically equal measure. It is in real need of reinforcement, and we need at least one top player brought in. Is that quite enough? Probably, but maybe we have other players move out — like Joao Plata. It’ll be an interesting offseason.

Jordan Allen: I’m very excited about Allen still, and I know maybe there’s a bit too much optimism in my evaluation. But you know what? I don’t care. I want Allen to succeed here. I hope we get to see him do it. As a right-sided winger, we could actually play him where he’s best. Put him behind Savarino on the depth chart and we’re solid. Now, if we bring in Brooks Lennon permanently, things get interesting — but let’s deal with that if and when we reach that point.

Yura Movsisyan: I really don’t think we’ll be seeing Movsisyan in an RSL kit next year, but you know what? You never know. Again, let’s cross that bridge if we reach it.

Joao Plata: Here’s an interesting one to me: I’m not wholly convinced we will have Plata at Real Salt Lake much longer, simply because demand has been steadily building in him. Sure, he’s got on well with RSL coach Mike Petke finally, and that’s great, but at some point, you have to think a big money move to Europe or Mexico will materialize. I hope we can keep him, though.

Jefferson Savarino: We just paid a not insignificant sum to keep Savarino on our side, so let’s have that remain the case. I remain perpetually excited about his potential, and we don’t need to say much more than that.

Luis Silva: I’m torn here. I’m really glad Silva did well last year, and I think he can continue to do so, but we definitely need a player who is a cut above him that can really make the difference for this side. Silva isn’t that player at forward. Could he pair with that forward? Maybe. Could he be an excellent second option? Sure. Let’s see what happens with the rest of the roster before we make this evaluation.

Questions to be answered:

  • Who will RSL bring in at forward?
  • How wil RSL offload Yura Movsisyan?