The new season is now only a couple of months away and this season there will be 27 clubs, with the addition of Austin FC. While league expansion says some positive things about growth and the future of soccer in the United States and Canada, there are some questions about the status of the roster, (not to say anything about ownership etc. – Ryan Smith, or someone, please?) so let’s take a look at where we stand and where we could use some help.
With the addition of academy product Jeff Dewsnup, we now have four goalkeepers on the roster. On Jan. 8 RSL resigned Andrew Putna yet he did not get updated on the current roster on their website, however Jeff was updated already today, so nothing really to read in, just that Putna is coming back.
The roster also has now often injured (can you say that about someone who is only 19?), incredibly talented David Ochoa, and Zac MacMath. Is the real replacement for the Wall of the Wasatch in this group? Maybe, maybe not. Can we pin the -10 goal-differential all on the keepers? No, but there is no denying that we gave up 35 goals last season.
If I had to predict one of these to be the starter, it’d be Putna.
As of now, Real Salt Lake has eight defenders for the 2021 season. Those eight are: Andrew Brody, Erik Holt, Marcelo Silva, Justen Glad, Aaron Herrera, Ashtone Morgan, Noah Powder, and Donny Toia. We know that Silva and Glad will most likely start as center backs, however, without Nedum Onuoha, we basically have only Erik Holt to back up the center backs (there is no universe where we should include Nick Besler as part of this group…).
Ashtone Morgan, Noah Powder and Donny Toia will trade time at left back, and with the up and down play that we have seen at this position in the last year or two, any of the three could lock down a starting spot.
The right back situation is interesting, as it is all but given that a healthy Aaron Herrera will always get the starting nod. Andrew Brody from the Monarchs is also present, however, while he might be considered a defender on this roster, is it his best position? He has done a great job with the Monarchs, but there is no place for him at his current position with RSL, so will we just sign him since we are going in a different direction with Monarchs and find a place for him? Not sure. Will he see serious minutes this year as a right back? Also, not sure. At least there is a player behind Herrera should the worst happen.
Who are the real standouts here? Herrera for sure. Silva is a yellow card waiting to happen depending on the match, and Glad, well, we are never sure which Glad will show up in a match. The rest? They lead to a lot of unknowns at this point. Are they part of the reason 35 goals went in last season? Yes. Will things improve in 2021? They need to.
There were some bright spots in the midfield for Real Salt Lake in 2020. Maikel Chang and Pablo Ruiz were some of these. Albert Rusnak is still not playing to potential or value based on pay, and Damir Kreilach also did fantastic being the leading scorer and all around swiss army knife player. Everton Luiz was an enigma last season. There were matches where he was almost a liability, which just does not make any sense based on the season before. So, let’s hope that he will move forward this season and return to form.
As the roster stands now: Nick Besler, Maikel Chang, Damir Kreilach, Everton Luiz, Justin Portillo, Pablo Ruiz, and Albert Rusnák round out the roster. Depending on the forward situation this season, we could see Kreilach slide up and Rusnak play wing. If things stay the same, we will most likely see Ruiz, Luiz, Rusnak, and Kreilach start, with Chang coming in or working out on the wing.
Bode Davis, Chris Garcia, Milan Iloski, Douglas Martinez, Justin Meram, Jeizon Ramirez, Rubio Rubin, and Tate Schmitt round out the forwards roster here for Real Salt Lake. Now, who is a lock down starter? Who will come up from the midfield and spend time on the wing up top? Will Rubio really make a difference? Will the flashes of decency that Martinez show turn into more consistency? We will see. Will Justin Meram have fitness down at the start of the season and really get out onto the pitch to lock down a starting spot?
There really are a lot of unknowns here up top for Real Salt Lake. Corey Baird is gone, and Giuseppe Rossi didn’t pan out. We only found the back of the net 25 times. Now, in only 22 matches, that isn’t terrible, however, it only earned us 22 points overall. Also, finishing only above Houston on the Western Conference Rankings just hurts. Our defense needs work, and it certainly helps take the pressure off if we can find the back of the net.
Freddy Juarez brought in Pablo Mastroeni as first assistant. This is not intended as a full roster critique from last season, but it is clear that Real Salt Lake has gone a number of years with a coaching staff not getting the best of players. At this point, let’s hope that Mastroeni helps, because Juarez seems to need all the help he can get. I mean, with Kyle Beckerman retiring, and the Wall of the Wasatch retired, we could always have the dynamic duo come back and coach right? OK, maybe not yet, but I do think that we have been sadly lacking at head coach since the 2013 season. When you go almost a decade without a competent helm, it can really hurt the chance to bring in new signings.
OK, anyone is basically an upgrade, so we should be good here if the team actually gets a new owner.
Also, per all the reports we are hearing, anything that helps the culture in the locker room and around the organization. Does this naturally improve as ownership changes? Let’s hope! Here is to a great 2021 season where we hope that the team can take a step forward, return to the playoffs and forge a new identity, under a new owner and we can be proud of how hard it is for opposing teams to even get a point in the RioT!
We need a solid center back, double digit scorers, a new owner, and strong fan support. Let’s face it, let’s make this the most attractive team in MLS to a potential buyer by packing the RioT (when allowed) and supporting the team every way possible!