This Wednesday the RSL front office will be honoring the squad that made us all champions, the 2009 version of Real Salt Lake. Many of our soccer heroes from that era will be on hand and it has us waxing a little nostalgic over here. So we took a walk down memory lane and had our RSL Soapbox contributors put together the best RSL squad of all time. The team we have put together for you would be really fun to watch, that’s for sure!
We took players from each season going all the way back to the 2005 inaugural season and had each contributor vote with this premise: put together the best RSL team that you think could win MLS Cup tomorrow. We eliminated age and all other restraints. So while many of these players are now retired, we are taking them each in their prime while at the club. At the end there is a link for you to vote as well if you’d like to give it a try!
While a 3-4-3 is never a formation that RSL has ever committed to tactically, we are using it here. Why? Because it is way funner to pick midfielders and strikers for these types of things than defenders, sorry. If it makes you feel better there is still a diamond on the field, just higher up the pitch than you’d expect. This squad has us salivating and we would gladly hand over all of our monies to see this squad all playing together in their prime.
With 11 forwards to choose from we had to whittle it down to just 3, no easy task with all of the talent that has made their way through Salt Lake.
- Álvaro Saborío. Was there any doubt that Sabo would take the top spot? Saborio was and is the most prolific scorer in RSL history with 63 goals, a mark that no one has yet to surpass. Sabo was also RSL’s first ever DP and 2010’s MLS New Comer of the year. Saborio was our only unanimous pick at forward.
- Jefferson Savarino. So don’t be upset with me but I made a judgement call here. Jason Kreis garnished the second most votes of any forward with 8, but because he was also an unanimous selection for the best coach in RSL history I have him on the sideline coaching and not on the field playing. So the honor then falls to current star Jefferson Savarino.
- Burrito Martinez. While Burrito wasn’t an RSL man for very long, his work rate, technical ability and flashes of brilliance won the hearts of RSL fans. He had that special quality that could unlock a game and get fans off their feet in the blink of an eye. If not for health issues with his beloved dogs (or maybe he hated Cassar) he may well have become an all-time legend for RSL. Either way, we want him in the starting lineup if we are going after the cup.
Honorable Mention: Joao Plata
The engine of this 3-4-3 MLS machine is looking might powerful if I do say so myself. With 14 midfielders to choose from in the voting, only 7 of the 14 received a vote and our staff was very aligned on our choices.
- Javier Morales. The man, the myth, the maestro. Javier Morales will forever be loved for not only his individual skill and brilliance, but for being one of the best damn people to have worn the crest. Javi loved futbol and he genuinely loved Salt Lake City and its people, and we loved him back. Javi is RSL’s all-time leader with 81 assists, a record that won’t be broken anytime soon. Javier was a unanimous pick from our 11 staffers that participated, a more than worthy honor for the best to do it for RSL.
- Kyle Beckerman. Falling only one vote shy of unanimous is el capitán, Kyle Beckerman. He has been the beating heart of Real Salt Lake for over a decade. Serving as the metronome on the attack, and the eraser in defense, Kyle is a living legend at RSL and should without a doubt have a bronze statue out front of Rio Tinto in the coming years (preferably with dreads).
- Tied, Albert Rusnák and Damir Kreilach. Rounding out our 4 man midfield are current RSL men Albert and Damir. One can only dream of what the two of them could accomplish alongside a younger Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales. That is a midfield I would sell my soul to see.
Honorable Mentions: Ned Grabavoy and Andy Williams
I felt the most guilty about the defense, mostly because we have far more defenders worth mentioning than just the 3, but like I said earlier it is way funner to pick attackers. So with only three making the cut, here are the best of the best.
- Nat Borchers. Borchers tortures, and it tortures us that he didn’t retire an RSL man. But none the less he will always be an RSL legend. The beard, the steely gaze and the never say die attitude will be the imagery that remains in our memory for years to come. Nat was the brain in defense for so many years, guiding RSL through MLS Cup and all the way to the final of Champions League. Nat was our only unanimous pick in defense.
- Jamison Olave. When you saw that beautiful bald head tuck, you knew someone was about to get wrecked. Jamison Olave is the biggest, strongest, meanest looking dude to ever play for RSL. Even with a current bruiser like Nedum Onuoha, Jamison towers over all others. Jamison was only 1 vote shy of being unanimous like his counterpart Nat Borchers, and they were inseparable for years as the two-headed hydra “Borlave.” You knew it was going down when Rio Tinto would echo the words, “Olave says no!”
- Tony Beltran. Tony took our third and final defensive spot garnering 9 of 11 possible votes. Hard to argue with that given all that he has meant to this club. He was drafted an RSL man and will retire an RSL man, something you will probably never see again in the history of Real Salt Lake thanks to the comeuppance of the academy system. Tony was smart, fast and intelligent.
Honorable Mention: Robbie Russell
- Nick Rimando. That is all. No one else comes close and this thing was 100% unanimous. Happy trails to Nick in his retirement, he has done an immeasurable service to this club.
He could well have been a starting forward in our squad, but he is so clearly the best coach that Real Salt Lake has ever had that it just felt weird not having him here. Sure, I could have put him in both spots but we have all played with a guy on the pitch that thought they were the coach and it sucks.
Jason Kreis brought legitimacy to RSL in the early years when the club was on shaky ground. Low attendance, few wins, and no playoff hopes were the reality of the early years. Jason was able to turn that all around and avoid the fate of Chivas USA by pushing Real Salt Lake into the playoffs and eventually to two MLS Cup finals, winning one. It was hard to see him go, it was hard to see him struggle coaching other clubs, and in an alternate universe he’s still the coach of the now 5 time MLS Cup champion Real Salt Lake.
Honorable Mention: No one. Maybe Freddy Juarez someday...maybe.
Well there you have it, our all-time best XI for Real Salt Lake. We hope that 10 years from now we are celebrating another MLS Cup, with some new additions to our all-time greats list. Feel free to take our survey here, or put together your own RSL best XI and post it in the comments.