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The Salt: Projecting RSL’s 2019 roster

Let’s see what’s coming this year.

MLS: Western Conference Semifinal-Sporting Kansas City at Real Salt Lake Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a bit since we Salted, folks, and I think it’s time we opened the doors again.

I don’t have anything I’m particularly salty about — although frankly, this column is mostly a title and then some thoughts less than it’s thematically salty — but I did want to talk about the roster. Hope you’re all enjoying the snow on the Wasatch Front this morning.


This is easy, because we can just put together a short list of relative order. I think it’s pretty clear-cut, with maybe one decision to be made.

  • Nick Rimando
  • Alex Horwath
  • Andrew Putna
  • David Ochoa

Four on the roster is good, because it ensures that one injury won’t leave Ochoa sitting on RSL’s bench. I don’t know that it’s a bad thing if he is — at least in terms of his ability — but for me, I want to see him playing for Real Monarchs week-in, week-out. That’s why he’s at the fourth spot for me. He might well move up, but that’s where he’s starting for me.

Full backs

  • Tony Beltran
  • Adam Henley
  • Aaron Herrera
  • Brooks Lennon
  • Donny Toia

So there’s a little give and take here — I was going to put Brooks Lennon as a forward, but let’s be realistic — he’ll probably be a right back. So here he’ll stay. I really wonder what’s going to come of Adam Henley, because it’s not making a whole lot of sense to me to keep him around. However, he’s on a guaranteed contract it seems, so there may not be too much we can do here. Let’s wait and see what happens, though, because I’d absolutely love to be proven wrong.

Center backs

  • Nick Besler
  • Justen Glad
  • Erik Holt
  • Nedum Onuoha
  • Marcelo Silva

Again, Besler’s here because I think this is the position he’ll likely be playing in 2019, jot because I think he shouldn’t be playing in the midfield. If you include him in the ranks here, I actually think this is pretty solid. He’s a good fourth option, and he has had some pretty good games for the club.

I’d also wonder if Marcelo Silva will stick around for 2019 — we postulate he agitated for a new contract or a move, and that he is sometimes an injury concern. That’s not a great situation to be in, especially if he’s slotted in as a starting player.

Further, Justen Glad is something of a flight risk. We all expect him to go to Europe at some point, and if he has a good January camp, that will put increased focus on him. I’d like him to stick around, but we should be at least somewhat realistic here.

As things stand, I think this is a good group. Our injury risk with Silva is somewhat mitigated, as we have three center backs playing at the top level.


  • Luis Arriaga
  • Kyle Beckerman
  • Everton Luiz
  • Damir Kreilach
  • Luke Mulholland
  • Pablo Ruiz
  • Albert Rusnak

So this is actually the most excited I’ve been about our midfield in a bit. Bringing in Everton Luiz on loan is really fascinating to me, and I’m wondering if he’s going to supplant some of Kyle Beckerman’s minutes here.

I do think Luis Arriaga won’t see the field for the first team in 2019, so we can lightly strike him from the list for now. I’m also curious what happens to our midfield if Albert Rusnak isn’t available at any point. That, for me, is the biggest question mark, next to how Luiz transitions.


  • Allen, Jordan
  • Baird, Corey
  • Plata, Joao
  • Saucedo, Sebastian
  • Savarino, Jefferson
  • Schmitt, Tate
  • Vazquez, Julian

So this is the area that has the biggest question marks. We’ve heard rumblings about Joao Plata being on his way out of the club, and Sebastian Saucedo could well be on his way, too. Let’s lightly strike them from the list, knowing that they may also be playing here in 2019.

Julian Vazquez isn’t likely to play for the first team in 2019. Jordan Allen is a major question mark, simply because it’s been multiple years since we’ve seen him play consistent minutes.

Let’s also tack on two rumored moves here: First, Mimoun Mahi, from FC Groningen, who plays as a winger. Second, Sam Johnson, from Valerenga, who plays as a forward. Both of these seem likely and have yet to be dispelled, unlike German Cano rumors.

International spots

Our international roster players in 2018 were Damir Kreilach, Nedum Onuoha, Pablo Ruiz, Albert Rusnak, Jefferson Savarino, and Marcelo Silva. That’s six players for seven slots, and we have no reason to suspect any of these players are moving imminently.

However, signing two — potentially three — international players this offseason would demand some movement here. Perhaps some of these players would be eligible for green cards — I have to confess being only slightly aware of the machinations there, and I’d also wonder how a government shutdown affects things.

Major remaining questions

I’d like to address the following over time:

  • What role will RSL’s academy signings play with the first team in 2019? Will any of them see a season-long loan to Real Monarchs?
  • Will the recent news about Martin Vasquez moving to Real Monarchs coach affect anything there?
  • How will the international slots situation work out?
  • Will RSL strengthen further in the midfield, or are we set for now?
  • Are we destined for a 4-2-3-1 for our time under RSL coach Mike Petke? Or is there a chance for changes there? Will that shape the roster at all?


Required watching — or reading — today.