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The Salt: Is RSL’s roster nearly complete?

It’s finally time to start digging in deep on the roster.

In this photo, Marcelo Silva points to the heavens, which — not coincidentally — is where RSL’s next big signing will come from. (Perhaps it’ll just be that they’ll fly in an airplane and not that they’re either aliens or angels. We’ll see, right?)
Lucas Muller | RSL Soapbox

I’m going to answer my headline almost immediately after writing it above, because, well, I think it’ll be easier than trying to tease it out in the text here.

So, here we go: I think RSL’s roster is nearly complete.

There we go.

I want to first underscore the word “nearly” here, because it really matters. I don’t mean to imply that we should shut up shop and stop our worrying about making changes. I think we could still go for somewhere between one and three, and I think with all of them it might not a bad idea to wait. Let’s talk about it.

First, the roster

Oh, yeah. Here’s what our roster looks like right now. I’ll break it into more distinct categories for analysis, but let’s start with the facts.

  • Goalkeepers (3): Zac MacMath, David Ochoa, Andrew Putna
  • Defenders (8): Justen Glad, Aaron Herrera, Erik Holt, Alvin Jones, Ashtone Morgan, Nedum Onuoha, Marcelo Silva, Donny Toia
  • Midfielders (8): Luis Arriaga, Kyle Beckerman, Nick Besler, Damir Kreilach, Everton Luiz, Justin Portillo, Pablo Ruiz, Albert Rusnák
  • Forwards (8): Corey Baird, Maikel Chang, Milan Iloski, Sam Johnson, Douglas Martinez, Jefferson Savarino, Tate Schmitt, Julian Vazquez

OK, that should be helpful.

I’d keep in mind that while there are no active rumors about departures or loans to Real Monarchs or anything of the sort, there are a few I’d look out for.

First, Luis Arriaga and Julian Vazquez: Are either of them ready for first-team minutes? If not, let’s not beat around the bush on this and ensure they get minutes. If they are ready — or if they’re projected to be ready — then I wouldn’t make a change there.

Second, Pablo Ruiz: He spent a good chunk of last year on loan to FC Pinzgau in Austria. Was that loan move a precursor to something bigger? I don’t know, but I would argue that he actually has one of the least secure spots on the roster at current. I’m very curious to see if RSL coach Freddy Juarez is able to get more out of him than former coach Mike Petke was, so there’s plenty to be discovered here.

Further, I wouldn’t be surprised if Tate Schmitt moves on loan, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if Juarez is considering using him in a left wing back position, much like we saw during his time at Real Monarchs under Jamison Olave last year. So, again, an interesting discussion needs to be had here, but this is perhaps not the time. I don’t think we have adequate information just yet.

Finally, we have two draft picks that have only just started being evaluated with the team, and while I’d be surprised to see either take a roster spot, we simply can’t quite say that one of them won’t have the ability to do so.

Let’s now move on to discussing some areas where we are perhaps weaker or stronger.

Strength: Defensive core

Yesterday’s addition of Ashtone Morgan to the roster really secures our defensive group. That’s not because I’m projecting Morgan as a starter, but rather because our depth here is unmistakable.

At center back, we have three starting-caliber players (Justen Glad, Nedum Onuoha and Marcelo Silva) and one who could step in to the lineup in a pinch (Erik Holt.)

At right back, we have our starter (Aaron Herrera) and our backup (Alvin Jones); we won’t suffer too much — at least on the face of it — should their positions be reversed.

At left back, we now have a real battle: Donny Toia and Ashtone Morgan. The former might seem to be the starting player, but I wonder if that’s simply my view toward continuity coming into play. So yes, this will be good.

Weakness: Difference-making attackers

We have one player who can create real, true magic, in my view: Jefferson Savarino. He can turn any situation into a goalscoring opportunity. It’s truly magnificent.

I’d argue we have two or three just below him in this category, too. First, Albert Rusnak is the obvious choice. I think we saw dreadfully little of that last year, but prior years have shown him capable of turning a game on its head.

Corey Baird and Sam Johnson are in a secondary tier for me, too. They’re excellent counterattacking players, and especially as Freddy Juarez makes in-training overtures about adopting the gegenpress that’s set the footballing world on fire, those sorts of players are important. Players that can break with pace and finish one-on-one are extremely valuable, but we won’t always have those opportunities.

If we had one more starting-caliber player who we could count of to lift the team, I think we’d be better off. Those players aren’t always found externally, of course, and I’d love nothing more than to have that player come from within our system. Maybe even our academy.

For the record, I think Bofo Saucedo could have become that for us, although when he left, he was probably just below Johnson and Baird in my consideration in this category. Joao Plata was clearly there at one point but had not been at that level for some time.

Strength: Defensive midfield

I actually think this may be our strongest midfield in some time. How much time? I don’t know. Let’s talk about how things shake out in a few months, yeah?

As things stand, we have two solid defense-first midfielders in Everton Luiz and Kyle Beckerman, a good backup in Nick Besler, and a depth option in Justin Portillo.

For me, that’s a very strong group. Everton Luiz is certainly the full-time starter; there’s no doubt there in my mind. Beckerman, if things play out as I’d expect, will probably end up starting something like 65 percent of the time, but there are so many unknowns that I should probably not have committed to any number, let alone that one.

Now, you’ll notice I didn’t list Damir Kreilach here. I don’t think he’s a defensive midfielder — though he can play the role in a pinch. I’d rather see him a more attacking midfield role, however that comes. He might also just end up at forward, which I don’t actually think is the worst thing, particularly in a gegenpress.

This gives us options for tactical construction in the midfield. On the road, perhaps you’ll see two defensive midfielders to cover ground and attempt to win possession back or clog things up. At home, you might see just one defense-first midfielder with two more attack-minded players on either side of him. Teams naturally take more risks at home, and having players further forward could be something that supports winning possession back further up the pitch.

Weakness: International slots

So, uh, yeah. Our international slots are a bit of a mess right now, and I frankly have very little idea what’s going on.

At last reckoning, our internationals were...

  • Sam Johnson
  • Damir Kreilach
  • Everton Luiz
  • Ashtone Morgan
  • Nedum Onuoha
  • Pablo Ruiz
  • Albert Rusnak
  • Jefferson Savarino
  • Marcelo Silva

So that’s nine internationals listed by RSL, with Morgan the sole addition and Ruiz returning from loan.

Something’s afoot, but exactly what it is, I don’t know. We’ll see.


There’s just one thing.

Star Trek: Picard debuts on CBS All Access tomorrow.

You might say I’m excited.

That would be underselling it significantly.