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Real Salt Lake vs. Toronto FC: Three players to watch

These three RSL players will be worth keeping an eye on in the team’s first match.

Manchester City v Chelsea
Albert Rusnak
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Real Salt Lake kicks off the 2017 season this week with a home match against Toronto FC. Before the match begins, we’re taking a look at three players for supporters to keep an eye on as the season gets under way.

3. Luis Silva

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Luis Silva
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Silva makes his return to RSL after spending a year mostly riding the bench for Tigres. I don’t think that’s a knock on him as a player, but we caught a good look here last year at how good that team is, and how difficult it might be for a player from MLS to crack the roster.

Still, he did make two appearances in Champions League for the Mexican side, and he was training with the likes of Jurgen Damm and Andre-Pierre Gignac, so I wouldn’t say he wasted a year. Silva always spoke highly of his time with RSL, and even though he made plans to play in Mexico before being traded here, he left with a thought of returning in his mind.

Now that he’s back, and presumably healthier than when he arrived in 2015, he has a chance to make an impact. Though he may not start right away, he’ll definitely be among the 18-man matchday roster, and is a solid option for Cassar when Luke Mulholland or anyone else in the midfield needs to come out of a match. When he’s on the field, look for him to be a stabilizing presence helping maintain possession, and organize the flow of the attack going forward.

2. Jordan Allen

MLS: Real Salt Lake vs Minnesota United FC
Jordan Allen
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The moment that we have been waiting for has arrived, and it’s a moment that Jordan Allen himself has wanted since he first put a RSL kit on. The starting spot at right wing seems to be his until he loses it, and he’s looked very good in the preseason.

Jordan’s pace and skill on the ball are well known, but without having a clear role and consistent minutes it’s been hard for him to put it on display. Now that there’s no one in his way, it’s on him to show he can add a dynamic presence to the forward corps. Jordan is a player that can disrupt a defense with his quick feet and incisive passing, and create more space for Yura Movsisyan and Joao Plata to work in as the attack enters the attacking third. If he makes the most of his chance, good things are coming for our team for a long while.

1. Albert Rusnak

MLS: Real Salt Lake vs Minnesota United FC
Albert Rusnak
Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

This is the big one. RSL has nine of its 11 starters back this year, but Albert Rusnak is the only one filling a spot in the lineup who wasn’t with the team last year.

The spotlight will be on Albert from the moment the team walks on the field, the number #11 worn by his predecessor on his back. Everyone will be watching and waiting to see what this 22-year-old does with the ball.

In his brief time on the field with RSL, there have already been some impressive moments where he’s connected very well with his attacking mates, and some less impressive moments where he doesn’t seem to be fully adjusted to the style of play in America yet. RSL GM Craig Waibel put a timespan of 3 to 4 months on expecting Rusnak to be fully up to speed, and that’s a fair but possibly conservative estimate.

The reality, from the fans perspective, is that he needs to figure it out much faster, and though he may not blow the doors open in the first game, that potential is there. The chemistry between Rusnak and the forwards is developing nicely, and if the team can manage the first moments of the season without becoming too rattled by the Eastern Conference champions, we may see our new attacking midfielder settle into a nice groove and create something special for his debut.