With three games under their belt, Real Salt Lake players are starting to come into keen focus as we look to the coming season. Lucky us, really.
That means we can start to take stock of who’s on their way up, who’s heading down, and what we can expect in coming matches.
After a stunning free kick, is it possible for our valuation to go any higher? I mean, probably, but look — Joao Plata is really good. He keeps showing us that. We’re finally starting to really build the team around him, and the addition of Albert Rusnak doesn’t change that — it adds to it.
We’ve seen the young Jose Hernandez in several matches now, and every time he comes in, he looks good. And he doesn’t just look sort of good — he looks comfortable and ready to take on a role at Real Salt Lake. That’s rare for college players, and if he continues to show us what he can bring to the table, we might just find ourselves with a real gem of a player.
If there’s any player who’s a “known quantity,” it’s Jordan Allen. You know that he’ll work hard, he’ll push himself, and he’ll get on the end of some goals. But by the same token, he’s making himself more of an unknown, and that’s the best thing he can do for his career.
By becoming more than just a steady winger — or even a “Swiss Army Knife” — Allen can really start to make himself undroppable. If you don’t know exactly what he’ll do week-in, week-out — and that’s with a good performance baseline, mind — he’s going to be undroppable. The important thing, though, is that it makes it harder for the opposition — not for us. Once Allen can roam, shoot from anywhere, and make those startlingly good runs, we won’t be able to stomach dropping him.
We know Stephen Sunday is a starter on this team, but he’s been error-prone a bit this preseason. That’s in sharp contrast to his very excellent preseason last year, but it underscores something: He’s going to be better alongside Kyle Beckerman than perhaps anyone else.
We’ve seen some excellent moments from newcomer Rusnak, but his stock is only staying level because it started in a high place when he came. He’s still not wholly integrated into the side, and that needs to continue. Still, we’ve seen some incredible combination play between him, Yura Movsisyan, and Joao Plata. Long may that continue.
The young center back has showed us some of the differences between the college game and the pro game in the U.S., and frankly, it hasn’t always made us excited. Throw in a good mix of simply not knowing the players around him well, and you’ll end up with a player often getting lost in the defense.
But despite falling a bit in consideration, Schmidt could be one to look out for, too. For every mistake, he’s had a really good moment, too. It’s also worth considering that center backs very rarely look good young, and players like Justen Glad are the exception, not the rule. Schmidt has plenty of opportunity in front of him.
- SAFE BET: We’ll see David Horst’s stock rise, but don’t expect it to shoot up — with Justen Glad gone, he’s likely to see minutes early on. We’ll need to see him paired with Aaron Maund or Chris Schuler more first.
- MAYBE?: Justin Schmidt won’t keep dropping. He’ll probably start rising soon — he’s just getting his feet under him now, and he could end up impressing us by the end of preseason.
- LONG SHOT: Albert Rusnak’s stock will rise throughout preseason, possibly culminating in him being our top player of the preseason. He’s got a bit to go.