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RSL needs painful changes for long-form recovery

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If RSL is to move forward, big changes will be needed to progress.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Houston Dynamo Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

RSL is bad. Well ... maybe they are just not good. No, I can’t even do that. They are bad. They are statistically having the worst offensive production in club history by a wide margin. The defense is only slightly better than the train wreck that was a defense in 2005. Yes, the team has been racked with injuries and call ups but that still doesn’t change the fact that this team looks broken. But when other RSL fans are jumping off the cliff, I am strangely optimistic about this team. I see that with a few changes, this year could be remembered as a very special year for this club … from a certain point of view.

Now these changes that I am going to propose might be painful. Some might be very painful to be honest. But there are changes that need to be made with this club and questions that have to be answered. And this is the perfect year to do both.

Before I get into these changes let me say this. I don’t believe this season is lost. I feel that with a healthy team we could make a playoff push and probably make it in. What I don’t see is a team that could make a deep run into the playoffs. While sometimes it is good to just make it in and see what happens (hello, 2009), I just don’t see that being the case this year. First team minutes are a limited commodity. There are better uses for those minutes than squeaking into the playoffs this year.

In my mind the future is incredibly bright for this team. Just look at this list of players and their ages:

  • Danilo Acosta (19)
  • Jordan Allen (22)
  • Lalo Fernandez (24)
  • Justen Glad (20)
  • Jose Hernandez (21)
  • Omar Holness (23)
  • Brooks Lennon (19)
  • Albert Rusnak (22)
  • Sebastian Saucedo (20)
  • Jefferson Savarino (20)
  • Justin Schmidt (23)

Just imagine how good these kids will be in the next few years. Especially if they are getting playing time now to learn and grow with each other. Not only is the future bright, the future should be now.

This leads me back to those changes that need to be made.

Sell Joao Plata

There are several rumors floating around that there are Mexican teams interested in Plata. If these rumors are true, we need to sell him. And as soon as possible. This has been an up and down year for Plata. It doesn’t appear that he is getting along with Coach Petke. I still don’t truly know what happened immediately prior to him scoring the goal in Houston. Did he refuse to come out until after the free kick? If that is the case that is not good (even if he did score a goal).

One thing I do know is that he doesn’t fit well in the 4-3-3 we have been playing. He seems to be better in a 4-4-2. And when Lennon comes back and Allen gets healthy, I would rather see a rotation on the wings between those players and Savarino than Plata getting more playing time. We need to know now if those three can play with each other.

And finally, the influx of cash would be nice for the club. Which leads me into my second point.

Find a way to buy Brooks Lennon

Honestly this might be the most important thing that the team can do right now. And with his great play at the U-20’s, his price tag has only gone up. I understand that this might not be easy to do. But we need Lennon long term. This is why it is so important that we sell Plata now.

Lennon is going to be a star. Not only for his club team but on the full National team as well. And if he does turn into this star on a national level the publicity that he will bring to the club will be an added benefit.

His game is so good already on so many levels but it is his elite crossing ability that intrigues me most. Has RSL ever had someone that can cross the ball as well as what Lennon can do right now? And he is only 19!

So if it means selling Plata, digging into Dell Loy Hansen’s money bin, or starting a GoFundMe to put up billboards along I-15 (thanks for the idea @dannyhaws), we need to find a way to hold on to Lennon.

Figure out what we are doing up top

I think we need to find a true target forward. Yura does not fit that bill. Like Plata, he is better with a forward next to him. He is not good by himself up top. And we don’t really have anyone else on the roster that can play that position. I understand target forwards are not easy to come by. But we really need someone that can maximize the talent we have on the wings. I just don’t think Yura is the one that can do that.

Play the young kids now

While this has happened already this season out of necessity, it needs to continue. We have questions that we need answered. Which of our young kids can really play? Who is going to replace Kyle Beckerman at the D-mid position? Can Lalo Fernandez step up and replace Nick Rimando one day?

Some of these questions can be answered by just playing the kids. What is the point of playing Matt VanOekel at this point of the year when Nick is out of the lineup? I would much rather see Lalo get those first team minutes. While he is getting time with the Monarchs and that is good, I think letting him start an MLS game or two would be great experience for him. And honestly he can’t do much worse than what VanOekel is doing (GAA of 3.2!)

Likewise, what is the point in playing Mulholland or Sunny at dmid when Kyle is out. Neither one of them is a long term solution. Can someone like Holness play that position? Perhaps the answer is that there is no long term solution for Kyle. And if there is not, that will need to be addressed quickly.

Find an exit strategy for Beckerman and Rimando

There is no denying that these team greats are near the end of their careers. RSL has to find a more graceful way to handle their exit than what they did with Morales. Offer them coaches offices in the new Herriman complex right now, even if it means that they become player-coaches for a season. Whatever the solution is, it has to be in a way that will respect them for all that they have done for the team.

Will these suggestions bring us greater success on the field this season? No, not at all. But these changes could bring about something much greater down the road than what we have now.