Preseason gives everybody a blank slate on which to write their pitch on why they should be in the first team. Everything from last season, usually, is forgiven and if you want a place in the team, it’s yours to fight for. Now more than ever, Real Salt Lake has a core group of talented players looking to get that MLS Cup and a group of hungry young players looking to get their first team moments.
It seems only fitting that we take a look at how the performance on Saturday will have affected the stock of a number of those players. Who looked good and who didn’t? Sure, it’s only the first game, but everybody wants to get off to a good start when there’s so much up for grabs.
To the stock market!
Nick Besler - Besler took his chance today to show why he deserved a spot on the RSL senior roster with a passionate performance and a goal to boot. He was one of the first players who came out of the gate at full speed and the former Monarchs captain showed his natural leadership by encouraging those around him to keep up with him. Mike Petke is going to have a hard choice to make between him and Luke Mulholland to pair with Kyle Beckerman.
Sebastian Velasquez - It's pleasing to see how a person can turn their lives around with the right kind of support. After Velasquez was drafted by NYCFC in the expansion draft by Jason Kreis he found himself at the NASL team Rayo OKC only a year later. The pressure he put on himself for his miss during the 2013 MLS Cup Final pushed him deeper into his well documented personal issues. Now back within the RSL organization, he’s putting the most educated feet in Utah to good work with some clever ball skills and great interplay before a cool finish to put RSL 3-1 up. He’s been a player on the cusp for a while now, and he’s pushing once more with his showing today.
Joao Plata - Let’s be honest, Plata’s stock was high enough anyway without him putting on a good individual showing. He should have been on the score sheet and seeing how much RSL was struggling to create he managed to blend both the striker and the creator role at the same time in the first pre-season game. There was a shakey moment where he looked to have tweaked his knee but thankfully he finished his 45 minutes and showed just how key he is to our success.
Luis Silva - Not sure what Silva had been told to do at the top off the 4 man offence, but it’s clear it wasn’t working. He couldn’t hold the ball up and he wasn’t bringing the likes of Plata or Hernandez into the game well either. It took a while for me to actually realise he was on the field for us and after him putting in decent shifts last season, he’s taken a step back in this opening game.
Luke Mulholland - I really want Luke to do well but as part of a two-man midfield, he just doesn’t fit. Luke works in a diamond as the utility guy and if you put him in the rotating 4th role that accompanied Morales/Grabavoy/Beckerman, he would be a stand out player. He’s just being asked to do so much as part of a two man midfield that he can’t. He isn’t a fluid passer so it starves the offence for possession and he’s not amazing tracking back which leaves us exposed. His skill (pressuring players, winning the ball back in the midfield and laying it off to a more creative player alongside him) don’t work in this formation and his performance today only exposed his shortcomings.
Sunny - Let me tell you, what it takes the sing out of not turning up for training on the first day without reason is putting in 45 minutes of chasing shadows and sitting down every time the ball goes out of play. Much like Luke, Sunny doesn’t really have a place here. He’s a physical player who battles for the ball but you need passion for that and I think Sunny must have left his heart at the city limits because it’s not in Tuscon. He needed to put a better shift in to wash the bad taste from everyone's mouth but this wasn’t it I’m afraid.