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The Salt: Evaluating RSL’s 2018 roster additions

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We’re out of the playoffs, so that means MLS is forcing change down our gullets.

MLS: Western Conference Semifinal-Real Salt Lake at Sporting KC William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

Well, hello, everyone. I hope you had a nice, productive holiday, and I sincerely hope there wasn’t too much Twitter drama around.

For me, it was just a nice sprinkling.

I’m not here to talk about that, though. In fact, it’s hard for me to know exactly what I’m here to talk about, so let’s just get started. Let the words flow and all that.

Roster moves starting already

So our league is a weird one, in that roster moves have started being forced to take place at the same time as four teams battle it out in the playoffs. I get the timing — I don’t want to pretend I don’t for the sake of an argument — but the optics sure aren’t very savory.

Here we are, though, worrying about our roster. We already quasi-announced the option declines and all that. Shawn Barry is still missing from all that, and given the club hasn’t released it through official channels just yet, I don’t know exactly what’s happening there. I wouldn’t be shocked if he returns, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he leaves. After two starts to open the season, he went down with injury and has hardly been seen since, so take from that what you will.

We’re now at a point where we can start to wonder what our roster will look like next year. Will it be improved over this year significantly? I actually felt like things started off pretty well with our squad, and I’ll talk about that in a minute here. I also feel like things fell apart as the season went on.

What happened to our roster?

I was genuinely excited about the additions of a few players — let’s talk about those who didn’t live up to expectations.

Alfredo Ortuno played in just three matches, subbing on in two blowout losses and starting in a 1-0 win over New York Red Bulls. He didn’t make a single appearance after April 11. I’d expected a starting striker, even if his relative quality otherwise was a bit of an unknown.

Adam Henley went through some injury issues early on, made five appearances (four of substance), went through some more injury issues, then played almost exclusively for Real Monarchs. When he played, I was disappointed with his performances, but there’s always an adjustment period, and I doubt strongly we got past that point with him. I’d expected him to push for a starting spot at right back, especially with Tony Beltran out.

Alex Horwath was supposed to be our backup goalkeeper, but then he suffered a long-term injury. Certainly not his fault, but it didn’t serve our squad well.

Shawn Barry, who we talked about briefly above, had some injury issues early on, and he didn’t play much after he returned. I’d expected him to be a defensive backup, which we needed this year.

Ricky Lopez-Espin really falls into neither category; I had no real expectations from him, as he was a second-round pick. He also played just 22 minutes.

Injuries defined the season for three of those four players. What about the players who performed at or above expectations?

Damir Kreilach performed so far above expectations, it’s almost scary. He was a hugely influential part of this squad, and I’m hoping he sticks around for a few years. I expected him to play significant midfield minutes, but not to be a leader.

Pablo Ruiz joined without any real expectations, and once he played in the midfield, he looked like a player with some promise. I don’t know that he should have ever played at left back, where he looked out of his depth.

Aaron Herrera joined with an expectation that he’d maybe earn some spot minutes at right back. I didn’t expect that he’d start the last 14 games of the season at left back. For me, he performed well above expectations.

Corey Baird is probably the biggest surprise of the year. He won the Rookie of the Year award, and nobody’s going to argue with that. He wasn’t perfect, but if this is the platform he’s building his professional career on, then we’ve got an extremely bright future with Baird.

The question I’m asking myself after all this: Was our roster more disappointing with players who remained, or with players who were added? I don’t have an answer for that right now, but we’ll talk about the second half of that question before too long.

Off-topic

Well, it’s been a busy week, hasn’t it? I hope you all had good holidays and are getting back into the swing of things. From a site perspective, we’re aiming to start our Real Salt Lake player profiles next week. You’ll probably recognize those from previous years, and certainly from the Utah Royals FC profiles we’ve been running for a bit.

As for me, I’m just getting over a cold, so that’s been a lot of fun. During that time, instead of finishing Designated Survivor (I really need to finish that, and not because it’s a particularly good show or I’m enjoy it significantly), I started re-watching Community. It’s been a bit since I watched it, and it’s still a good time, so there’s that.

I actually finished the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine relaunch series — the first half, at least — and have moved on to ... Star Trek: Voyager. The more things change, I guess, right? Anyway, it’s been a good time, and the books are breezy and fun, and I’ve finished a slew of them in the last four months.

It’s time for Christmas music, so if you have any great suggestions for that, leave them in the comments. I’ll probably listen to Low’s Christmas album on repeat.

As far as games are concerned, I’ve been playing Sudoku with more frequency, which is fun, but I also wonder if it’s just a timewaster, like most games you can play on a phone. Anybody have any great scientific journal sources on that?

In the board game realm, I played two solo games from Tokyo Jidohanbaiki, which is a game from Utah designer Jordan Draper. Rather than drone on about it, here’s the Instagram post from my board games-focused profile, where I wrote some rambling words.

I don’t have anything else for you. What do you have for me, though?