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Plata comeback? Saucedo scorned? Savarino washed? 9 thoughts on the state of RSL

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Nine thoughts as we head through the MLS offseason

MLS: MLS Cup Conference Semifinals-Real Salt Lake at Seattle Sounders FC Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The number 9 has a certain significance for fans of soccer in general, but perhaps even more so for fans of our beloved Real Salt Lake. Jason Kreis, our once (and perhaps future) king donned the kit which was retired, and then after realizing that was a silly thing, unretired. The past half decade of RSL soccer has been partially defined by the club’s inability to sign a top class number 9. Once they finally did sign one, it was decided it would be better to play a midfielder in that spot instead.

What does this all mean? Probably nothing, but I have a lot of thoughts, needed to cap them somewhere, and needed a lede for this article. Without any more ado, here are some thoughts that have been bouncing around the cabeza.

1. The Team Has No Stars

Even in #theglorydays we weren’t known for star players or big names, but Javier Morales, Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando, and Alvaro Saborio all had strong cases for being top 5 in the league at their positions. In a preseason column this year, not one RSL player was named to Bobby Warshaw’s top five in each position.

The popular candidates to make that list would seem to be Albert Rusnak and Jefferson Savarino, but here’s the thing...are we sure they’re good?

Rusnak is average for the position when it comes to xG and xA, or in other words, consistently doing the two most important things he could be doing. He IS elite at pass quality and ball security, but doesn’t play a lot of progressive passes, doesn’t stay super involved, and offers next to nothing defensively.

Savarino is more involved and recovers the ball much more frequently, but his only elite skill is dribbling (which you probably could’ve guessed) and his passing is below average. I know he’s a fan favorite and this is probably an unpopular opinion, but if we get any of the rumored offers for Savarino it makes a lot of sense to sell him, and reinvest those funds in a potential difference maker.

2. Too much Sauce?

Bofo won my heart with this chip when he was but a lad, and I have been irrationally upset at his lack of first team playing time ever since.

Now with rumors abounding of a possible departure, I have reached new levels of despair. The only rational explanation is that he had too much sauce for this sauceless club.

The most frustrating part of all this is that Saucedo is exactly the type of player RSL needs. When adjusted to per 96 minutes (I’m not really sure how to say that, just roll with it) he finished second on the team in key passes and xA. For a team that finished toward the bottom of the league in goals scored and whose primary chance creator is not exactly elite, that would seem like an ideal skill set to have on the wing opposite a dribbler like Savarino or direct attacker like Baird. But Idk, maybe it’s a better strategy to let him leave for free.

3. The stars Salt Lake needs

Megan Webb, who writes for this fine site and is a great follow on twitter, posed this question the other day:

I have been thinking about the question a lot since, and came up with a slightly different question- If the entire roster had to go and you could only keep three current players, who would they be? My answer would be Glad, Plata, and Johnson.

I’m guessing most would disagree with me, but my reasoning is thus- of all the players on the roster, there are five players I can see reaching an elite (relative to MLS) level- the three mentioned, Herrera, and Ochoa. Ochoa is a bigger question mark just because of age and sample size, Herrera to me plays a less important position than the other three (though that can be debated).

Glad has had an inconsistent career, but we’ve already seen that when he plays to his potential he is a top 5 center back in the league and a potential national team player. He is young, mobile, and should be the heart of this team for the next decade. You can debate me on this, but I’ll make rude noises and attack your character.

Plata has shown he can produce at an elite level. Even this season in limited playing time his p96 numbers led the team in xG, was fourth in xA, and first in xG+xA. He has a history of being difficult, and everything can’t be blamed on Petke, but I don’t think it would be shocking to see a new coach come in and reconnect Plata to the team. To me this is our easiest route to finding a star.

Johnson has been good! I understand the questions about his buildup play, but how did Waibel not understand that when signing him? Did anyone in the front office watch his highlights?! He is a pacey, get in behind finisher and doesn’t really do much else, but again, we scored less goals last season than the Montreal Impact. If Johnson had played a full season and scored at the same pace he’d have gotten to around 18 goals. That seems good.

4. The coach and GM search

I would prefer to go foreign for the GM, preferably with someone from the Red Bull or Fenway group or some other analytically minded candidate with global connections. My guess is we higher an upper manager from Smith’s and the coach of a local high school

5. The lost generation

I have said many times that I’d stop talking about it, but I’m still sad about Booth, Ledezma, and Soto. They are all pretty good and should’ve passed through RSL on their way to Europe. I take solace in the fact that we might sign “the next ones” but am worried there might not be “next ones”, at least not at that level. US youth national teams are not calling up RSL academy players in the numbers they once were and our Golden Generation may have already passed.

6. Monarchs — still good

In happier news, the Monarchs went through major changes, got significantly younger, and are still very good! They’ve been fun to watch and I’d love Olave to get the full time job. Go out and support this weekend if you can.

7. Monarchs who could make the jump

What is it called if you are a monarch and then get a promotion? I’m not sure we’ve seen a political institution such as this before. I’m not sure what to make of it. We’ve already seen Douglas Martinez get signed to the first team and Okumu get sold to Europe so it’s been a pretty successful season already Monarchs wise. Could more players be on their way up?

Aside from the younger players, it seems to me that Jack Blake is very good at soccer. If Mulholland moves on as many suspect, I think Blake could be a very good and affordable replacement as a 8/10 off the bench.

8. The Kreilach Question

After initially asking this question a year ago, I’m still not sure what Kreilach’s best position is. Is he an 8? A 10? A 9? Will he line up at centerback? Will he don the Leo costume? I still have many questions about this mysterious man.

9. The Salt King

If anyone has ever wondered why Matt is the editor of this website it is because he has the most salt, and at RSL Soapbox, he who controls the salt is king.

That’s all for now. Come fight me in the comments.

Also any advanced stats from this were found on www.americansocceranalysis.com which is a very excellent website.