Real Salt Lake’s season may start a week later than the rest of Major League Soccer, but that shouldn’t dull the hopes, feelings and excitement you’re feeling for the 2021 season.
2020 was, to make a long story woefully short, a really weird year. Now, with the club still not sold, and a sale pinpointed by MLS commissioner Don Garber for the end of the year, investment in new, exciting signings isn’t likely this year. But all that aside, it promises to be an interesting year, at the very least, with a roster that’s built lean and scrappy.
Here’s your 2021 season preview. Let’s get excited — or at least ready for what’s coming.
Real Salt Lake (5-7-10, 11th place)
Head coach: Freddy Juarez
Key additions: Anderson Julio, Rubio Rubin, Bobby Wood (estimated July 1)
Key losses: Corey Baird, Kyle Beckerman
Projected Best XI (a graphic would be good, but obviously isn’t required ): (4-3-3): Ochoa; Herrera, Glad, Silva, Toia; Ruiz, Kreilach, Rusnak; Julio, Wood, Rubin
Best offseason move: Real Salt Lake is in an interesting position, given we have an owner actively looking to sell and not actively looking to invest in the team. The capture of Bobby Wood, given that context, is somewhat remarkable — but it’s also a move laden with risk. He hasn’t played more than 1,200 minutes in a season since the 2017–18 season.
Reasons to be worried: Where do we start? Real Salt Lake was bad last year, and if we got better, it’s really only marginally. We’re currently in the process of being sold, but that’s taking an awfully long time. We have just three rostered center backs. There’s just loads of risk that we’re having to deal with, and it’s really frustrating. We might be very bad this year, but hopefully we’ll be better with less meddling from a bad owner.
Why Real Salt Lake are worth watching: There’s a huge amount of untapped potential here. Albert Rusnak could be a 10-goal, 10-assist player, even if he wasn’t last year; Pablo Ruiz has been a revelation in the midfield; Rubio Rubin might prove a hugely underrated signing; and Bobby Wood could find form again. The narratives around so many players could prove a level of excitement we haven’t felt in years, and there’s a real chance the team feels untethered from ownership. This could be the year things start to look up again.