The first sixteen games of the season have not been 'happily ever after' Jeff Cassar needed, the 'once upon a time' that Mike Petke would have wanted and it's not been the fairy tale that fans had hoped for when we began the season loaded with young potential. Like a lot of great stories we've begun at a low point and all we need now is a hero to emerge and take us from darkness of 10th place in the Western Conference to the light above that red line.
I don't know yet who that hero will be but I do know that they will need 10 other heroes next to him and a few more on the sidelines when Real Salt Lake host Minnesota on the 18th of June. We have the July window around the corner and Craig Waibel has all but confirmed Real Salt Lake will be flexing its muscle to send out and bring in players who can help salvage this season. There will be a host of players returning from international duty or injury as well which will mean that the fight for minutes will be tougher than it has been so far. With all that said, here's who we think will be in the first 11 for the next part of the season.
I think we're going to see a sacrificial lamb somewhere in defense. Petke needs to stamp down his authority quickly and show players that poor performances will mean your job isn't safe. I think we will see wide players too with Savarino coming in and playing well and Lennon setting the world on fire whatever team he is in. While Plata is here I think he makes it into the line up but I don't know if he is here for a long time or just a good time. Fitting Beckerman, Rusnak, Lennon, Savarino, Plata and Yura into one starting line up is a tall task but I've done my best! It's a 4-4-2 with a fluid midfield, Rusnak plays all over the field but will need to drop deeper too. Yura is the target man and Plata will push forward. Lennon and Savarino will overload the opposition defense by pulling them wider and creating space.
This is a tough one. I went back and forth between who I want to see start, and who I think will end up starting, and I think I’ve got a pretty healthy balance between the two. I’m really excited to see the youngsters — particularly Lennon and Glad — get back into the starting lineup. That’s not to say that Bofo and Acosta won’t get plenty of playing time, I’m just not convinced that Petke will be starting those two right off the bat when we come back into MLS play against Minnesota. When the July transfer window comes around, all hell could break loose and (IMHO) we could see an entirely different set of attacking players for the second half of the season.
For now, though, I’m working off of the players that we have available on the roster. While I really like both Sunny and Mulholland, I personally think that Kyle is a little more effective when he’s the lone holding midfielder, even though he may not be the same caliber now we’re used to seeing in the past. I’d also like to see Savarino lock down a regular starting spot, but I’m not sure I’m willing to sacrifice Plata for him quite yet on the left wing. So, in my ideal lineup, I’d love to see Rusnak and Savarino have fluid-like roles in the midfield, with Rusnak obviously pulling the strings and Savarino playing off him and filling in space to give him an extra outlet, while using his speed to drop back on defense when needed as well. Lennon is bound to grab a couple more goals this season, and can give Yura some real quality service from the right wing — it’s just up to Yura to put some of those balls in the net. (please?)
On the defensive side, it’s a tough call between Maund and Schuler to start next to Glad, but I’m picking Maund since he’s the less injury-prone out of the two. Although, if Horst is ready to go after the break, I wouldn’t kick him out of the starting eleven either. Assuming Phillips is ready to go after the break, he’ll add some much-needed speed on the left flank where Wingert and Schmidt have fallen a bit flat.
Again, I don’t necessarily think this is what Petke will go with, but in my mind we could easily see some combination of these players coming back from the international break. Everyone’s spot is up in the air at this point.
Tricky one, I’m going with a 4-1-3-2 for the reboot.
Rimando is a given at GK of course, Glad returning will likely bump Maund since Schuler has been slightly better, but both of them will likely rotate games (until if / when a new defender arrives in the July window). Beckerman will likely remain at CDM, but Sunny and/or Mulholland will likely be brought in either as subs, or to start certain games where he may need some extra help. Rusnak will continue as CAM, but while he’s away with Serbia I expect either Savarino or Silva filling in. Holness would be my expected sub for this position. Lennon and Savarino (or Saucedo if Sava is at CAM) would flank the CAM and all three interchange frequently. Finally Plata and Movsisyan take the forward roles as usual, with either Saucedo, Silva or Velasco coming in as sub.
I know this is going to be a little controversial, but I don’t think we need to change our formation — at least immediately. That’s because we have two players coming back who excelled in it with Sebastian Saucedo and Brooks Lennon, and I don’t think we can go with something that caters to Joao Plata’s potential best position. In fact, I’m not even going with him in this lineup. Here, let’s jump headlong into it.
Simply, I don’t think you can depend on Plata to defend, and no player can make it into the starting lineup without being properly able to follow an attacking player on a set piece. Further, I think we’ll continue to see Albert Rusnak pushed further up the field, in part because that gives Yura Movsisyan the best chance to get into goalscoring positions.
And, of course, I know Movsisyan has raised the ire of plenty — myself included — but I don’t think Luis Silva is the answer. At best, I think he fits in where I have Rusnak slotting in.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sebastian Saucedo and Brooks Lennon jump right back into the starting lineup after their international absences, and I think Danilo Acosta has a strong chance to make a string of appearances at left back. I’ve gone with the relatively safe pick in Demar Phillips there, even though he’s a much more attacking option.
Finally, I’ve overcomplicated this lineup a bit — I have Saucedo as a left midfielder rather than a winger, which I think might describe his style of play a little better. Lennon’s definitely a winger-type, though. And I’ve got Sunny offset, but that’s more to describe that he’d float around as a ball-winner. And don’t think I’ve forgotten Jefferson Savarino — he’s still behind Brooks Lennon, and I’d like to give Saucedo a crack at the starting lineup as they really enforce a good rotation. Let’s give Savarino a chance to come off the bench as an impact player, too, because frankly, we could use one. (Of course, we’d have to stop giving up goals first, but that’s another story.)
I’ve also put this together. This might be how RSL ends the season.
It’s a little out there, and it’s very purposefully asymmetrical. It features Savarino on the left and Lennon on the right, but of course, they’d switch sides as needed. I’ve also got Luke Mulholland in here, which I didn’t think I’d do, really. But you need somebody to tie possession together, and he might be the best we’ve got there. (I do think we desperately need a midfield signing, mind.)
I don’t think this works at all, but the combination play could be really fun to watch.