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RSL Stock Report: Baird rising, Ortuño falling in mixed start to season

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Who’s on the rise for RSL, and who might be finding themselves out the door? We’re taking the pulse of the roster.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Orlando City SC Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

With nine games gone in 2018, it’s fair to say that Real Salt Lake hasn’t truly impressed us.

They’ve won but a third of those games, and they’ve drawn only a single match — and that’s perhaps the most damning thing about it. But we should also look at our -9 goal differential, which is the joint-worst difference in the league. We’re tied with Montreal Impact for that, having played the same number of games and holding a nearly identical record.

To truly understand how we got here, it would be instructive to look at some of the players that have impressed and compare them to those whose stock has fallen — and in some cases, fairly quickly. It’s certainly not all bad, though, as you’ll see.

Up: Corey Baird

Let’s get this one out of the way first. Corey Baird is impressive not because of his goal count (two in four games isn’t bad, but that’s fewer than half of the games RSL has played), but because he’s come in and showed an ability to fit into this squad that I wouldn’t have expected. There’s a long way to go for him yet, but early signs are extremely positive.

Down: Alfredo Ortuño

I’m not ready to call Ortuño a bust — not nine games in — but the fact is, Baird is starting games while Ortuño has started just one and hasn’t featured in the last three. For a TAM-level striker, falling behind a rookie will cause your stock to drop. Now, I understand there may have been an injury involved here, and if that’s the case, we’ll need the club to be more forthcoming about that sort of the thing for us to really buy it.

Up: Brooks Lennon...?

Alright. So I’m not a Lennon-at-right-back believer. I’ve been pretty clear about that. But I also recognize that he’s been much better than I expected — which is to say, I thought he’d play one game there and we’d immediately see the error of our ways. Lennon is definitely not a true defender (right now), but I do see some potential in him there. I’d rather see him in the attack, but we’ll see where the chips fall.

Down: Danilo Acosta

Please don’t take this as evidence that I’m anti-Acosta — I’m not, to be clear — but it’s unmistakably the case that Danilo Acosta’s stock has dropped this season. He’s currently on the wrong side of Petke’s consideration, with midfielder Pablo Ruiz making starting lineups while he sits on the bench — or with Real Monarchs, sometimes even on the bench for them. He did play 90 minutes with Real Monarchs last night, and there’s a possibility he sustained an injury late on. We’ll keep our eyes and ears aware on this one.

Up: Nick Besler

I don’t think Besler’s been the best center back we’ve ever seen (certainly not), but he has been surprisingly competent in the spot. Sure, we’d seem him there once or twice with Real Monarchs, but he’d largely been playing midfield roles. He’s stepped into the fray three games in a row and adjusted pretty well to the pace of things. Now, we’ve also conceded too many goals during that time, but I’m convinced it’s not just because Besler’s there — considering we’ve done that no matter who’s on our back line.

Down: Injuries ... and lots of them

Tony Beltran, Jordan Allen, Taylor Peay, Alex Horwath, Luis Silva, Shawn Barry, Demar Phillips, Danilo Acosta, Aaron Herrera, Adam Henley, David Horst, Marcelo Silva, Joao Plata, Luke Mulholland, Alfredo Ortuño — all of these players have missed matches through injury (some more than others), and I’m sure I’ve missed a few, too. It’s put us in difficult positions, and we’ve struggled as a result.

Other: Damir Kreilach

I’m not sure where Damir Kreilach sits in this ranking. I’m of the opinion that he’s generally been alright, but not stellar. He’s showing signs of what he can provide, but it’ll take time to get there. For me, he’s neither gone up or down considerably, and he makes this list because he ostensibly won a starting position basically from the moment he arrived.