Well, folks, it’s been a long year, and I’m so glad you’ve stuck with us throughout. 2021 has been a baffling year, an exciting year, and a depressing year, all wrapped into one.
I went through our archives for the year and plucked out some of the more interesting stories from the year. We’d love to hear from you in the comments — what stands out for you from 2021?
- Miles Dunn wrote about his 2022 RSL resolutions in a very nice piece — well worth a read if you haven’t already!
- Justin Meram looks certain to return to the club on the back of impressive super-sub performances and some stability for the first time since leaving Columbus Crew.
- Pablo Mastroeni was officially named RSL’s head coach, a move that was widely predicted at the start of the year, though nobody could have predicted scraping into the playoffs and making the Western Conference Final.
- Real Salt Lake beat Seattle Sounders in the playoffs with zero shots taken; the final result came in penalties.
- Just as the playoffs were about to start, Albert Rusnak tested positive for COVID-19, which seemed like it might be damning. It wasn’t.
- I wrote about how the narrative around Real Salt Lake should be about overcoming difficulties, not shaming “haters” and “doubters”
- Damir Kreilach sent RSL into the playoffs with a last-gasp goal against Sporting Kansas City, putting the team in the 7th seed spot.
- Andrew Putna was removed from the team after alleged racist comments
- RSL’s coaching hire was rumored to be imminent, but that later turned out to be inaccurate — it of course ended with Pablo Mastroeni getting the job. Who knows what might have happened had RSL not advanced in the playoffs?
- Real Monarchs played a 15-year-old goalkeeper. He was punched by an opposing player. Real Monarchs filed a police report. What a weird story.
- Ben Smith wrote about RSL’s identity crisis: “The identity of a club is almost always defined by the ownership, as it’s their money being spent to keep the club going and so it largely influenced by their own values.”
- Then-coach Freddy Juarez left Real Salt Lake to join Seattle Sounders as an assistant coach, which remains one of the weirdest things I’ve seen happen in sports.
- Andrew Brody broke his toe — something that was surprisingly impactful for Real Salt Lake after he became a starting figure at left back.
- Toni Datkovic signed a two-year deal with RSL — a signing that hasn’t quite worked out.
- Albert Rusnak was very notably snubbed by Slovakia after a very slow start to 2021.
- Rubio Rubin started training with the Guatemalan national team.
- RSL signed Jonathan Menendez to a three-year TAM deal — and just as he started heating up, Pablo Mastroeni switched to a formation where he didn’t work.
- Rubio Rubin started off on a flyer for RSL, proving an incredible offseason signing
- Bobby Wood and RSL’s meeting was set to begin sooner after HSV terminated his contract — but the birth of his child delayed his arrival.
- With COVID-19 delaying the start of the season, RSL pushed for a 10,000-attendance-limit opener — they later opened the stadium fully as vaccination rates increased, often with some controversy as they pushed to do it faster than many other teams.
- Lo LaBonta spoke about the culture at Utah Royals — no surprise, it wasn’t good.
- RSL secured Anderson Julio on loan, and after a bumpy start, he became an incredible substitute option for the club.
- Matt Taylor joined Real Salt Lake’s coaching staff.
- Luke Mulholland retired from his playing career, joining Real Salt Lake as the club’s “team scout” — a position once held by Andy Williams, whose fate as being pushed out of the club was not fully public at the time.
- I wrote about feeling exhausted about Real Salt Lake back in February — and while things certainly improved (eventually) from the start of the season, I’m very much still looking forward to the next chapter.
- RSL signed Rubio Rubin, a player who had been on the verge of an early retirement from pro soccer — and what a move that turned out to be.
- Pablo Mastroeni joined Freddy Juarez’s coaching staff, which we all thought might end up with Mastroeni as head coach, as we’d been there before. It did, but who could have predicted how it would happen?