Real Salt Lake has played 13 games this season, meaning they have 21 more to pull themselves up out of the Western Conference cellar. They currently only sit 5 points below the red line and the parity that exists in MLS means anything can happen, a hot run of form through the summer could open up an opportunity for the Pretty Much Just Claret to slide into the playoffs come November. Let’s look at reasons why RSL is a lock for the playoffs, followed by reasons why the Chicago Fire have a better shot at the World Cup than RSL have at making it to the postseason.
Reasons why RSL will make the playoffs:
Players will get healthy
Real Salt Lake has seen injuries galore this season, and while a handful of survivors have sometimes played decent soccer this season, you aren’t holding Helm’s Deep with Wingert and Schmidt in central defense. Tony Beltran, Justen Glad, and the rest of the Riders of Rohan will return at some point, and when they do we should see results improve. Our best acquisitions of the season may be the players we have returning from injury.
Speaking of acquisitions, so far Jefferson Savarino appears to be the real deal. He’s brought energy every time he’s been on the field and recorded his first MLS assist last week when he fed Albert Rusnak for the equalizer.
The young man has some skills and will hopefully add a goal scoring punch from the wing.
Taking over a team a few games into the season is never easy, and Petke has been playing catch up since he arrived. He’s feeling more comfortable experimenting lately, and if he can pull the right strings, the incremental improvement could be enough to lift RSL in the standings.
Reasons why RSL won’t make the playoffs:
We don’t have a dynamic #9
Now Movsisyan is leading the team in goals at four, and I’m just fine with his goal scoring production at this point in the season. Where the Armenian really struggles is in his holdup and combination play. RSL relies far too heavily on getting down the wings and whipping in crosses, but part of the reason for that is the lack of a presence to play off of in the middle of the attacking third.
Even our healthy defense is not elite
Last year RSL ranked 8th out of 10 Western Conference teams in Goals Against and that was with a pretty consistent tandem of Glad and Maund. Glad has missed the entire season so far due to injury, and there is no guarantee he returns to last season’s form when he returns.
We don’t have a reliable box to box midfielder
Mulholland has shown heart and bite this season, but his inability to consistently connect passes severely limits his effectiveness. Sunny looks like a drastically different player from last season to the point where I have to wonder if the Nerdlucks took his talent just like they did with Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, and poor Iman Shumpert.
To me this is the weakest position on the field and one that needs to be addressed if RSL has playoff aspirations.
What are your thoughts? Did we miss anything? Are you dumber for having read this? Let us know in the comments below!