The first match of the year is upon us. After 6 weeks of preseason matches, questions and answers about roster moves, and some good and bad performances, we finally get to see a match that has meaning.
One of the perks of a deep team is that there are a lot of players to choose from on match day. This can also be one of the difficulties, as there are many qualified players to get minutes. Only 18 players make that match day roster, so who makes that roster is important. With the u-20s still in Costa Rica, Jeff Cassar has a smaller roster to choose from, and yet the decisions are still difficult.
With that, here is a stab at who will be on RSL’s 18-man roster, and who will start on Saturday.
Real Salt Lake
Nick Rimando might be the most sure-fire pick for a starter on this roster.
This is a familiar group of faces for RSL. The veteran core will attempt to slow down the massive attack from Toronto. Phillips hasn’t trained fully with the team this week while nursing a hamstring. If healthy, he quickly replaces Wingert.
- RB Beltran
- CB Schuler
- CB Maund
- LB Wingert
Although the captain hasn’t played a single preseason game, all signs point to Beckerman being ready to play come Saturday. He has trained fully with the team this week and says he is feeling better. With Beckerman and Sunny together in the middle of the pitch, it will relieve some of the defensive duties from the back line. Should Beckerman not start, I would imagine Mulholland would replace him.
- CM Sunny
- CM Beckerman
The front four will most likely need to score more than once if there’s hope for a win on Saturday. Luckily, RSL has the firepower to make some things happen. It’s unknown how effective Rusnak will be in a full speed match with his new teammates, but there is confidence coming from preseason performances that show that all four of these men are able and willing to score goals.
Expect to see Allen and Plata attacking the spaces left by Toronto’s wingbacks to stretch out the back three and provide space for Yura and Albert to run onto goal.
- RW Allen
- AM Rusnak
- LW Plata
- ST Movsisyan
- GK Van Oekel
- LB Phillips
- CB Horst
- M Silva
- M Mulholland
- LW Velazco
- ST Barrett
It pained me to leave Omar Holness off the 18 man roster. If it were up to me, he would replace Mulholland. However, I’m not the coaching staff, and I think this is what they’ll do.
The hope this season is that Cassar utilizes his subs more effectively than in the past two seasons to keep legs fresh for the entire season and to provide actual spark off the bench.
Keeping that in mind, I would imagine that if all goes to plan, the following substitutions will occur:
- Silva will come on for Beckerman around minute 65 and provide more option to the attack. Sunny will stay back more and provide cover to the center backs.
- Barrett will come on for Yura around the 70th minute.
- Velazco will come on for Allen around the 75th minute. There has been a great deal of talk from the front office that players, especially young ones, that have good performances on the road need to be rewarded by playing in front of the home crowd. Velazco has earned some minutes in this match with a great preseason.
- Clint Irwin
- CB Zavaleta
- CB Moor
- CB Hagglund
- WB Morrow
- M Osorio
- CM Bradley
- M Cooper
- WB Beitashour
- SS Giovinco
- S Altidore
Watch out for Victor Vazquez, a dangerous midfielder coming on late in the match. He hasn’t had a lot of time with the team yet, but his influence will be felt when he’s on the pitch.
What do you think? Who will we see on Saturday?