Well, hello! The 2021 MLS season is finally upon us, and I think I can speak for all of us that it’s not a moment too soon. (It’s probably a moment too late, but that’s another story.)
This year, we’re revamping an old standby: the mailbag post. But rather than just one or two people answering your questions, what you have here is a bit more involved and — hopefully — a lot more fun. So without further ado ... let’s have at it.
will rsl win? — Lucas Muller
Matt: We answered this one on the podcast, actually. Thanks for asking, Lucas.
Megan: Sometimes. But not without pain and suffering, I expect.
Will anyone score as many goals as Corey Baird this week? — miles
Matt: Probably, if you’re asking about MLS players in general. But just RSL players? I sure hope so. I think so.
What should we be more scared of- M. Silva being our starting center back or Eric Holt being our third CB?— Charles Barnard (@ccb1212) April 20, 2021
Ian: What if I present an option C? It makes me incredibly nervous that we only have three center backs on the roster. Period.
With Glad’s propensity for seeing yellow and Marcelo’s seemingly endless amount of red cards, it’s not out of the question that we’re going to end up in a situation where there just is not enough depth at the center back position. We have Mr. Dad Shoes himself (Nick Besler) who is serviceable, but isn’t who you want in the long run.
Simple one here: Can we get 3 points away at Minnesota?— Erick B. (@KanyeAsada16) April 20, 2021
Ian: Mathematically speaking, there’s a 33.3% chance.
Matt: I was actually curious about what you said, Ian, so I did some research. (And by research, I mean that I googled it.) So after looking at some statistics, it seems the home team generally wins just under 50 percent of matches, so I’d say it’s probably a bit lower than 33 percent. Sadly.
Biggest on field strength and weakness for the team?— RSL Ward (@rsl_ward) April 20, 2021
Biggest Strength: Assuming the starting XI comes out how we would expect it, more than half of the “starters” have been playing together for the last 2-3 seasons. That’s a lot of confidence that a lot of other teams don’t have.
Biggest Weakness: Assuming the starting XI comes out how we would expect it, we still have a lot of people not playing in their “natural” position. It’s slowly getting better, but we still have to solve the problem of a missing Kyle Beckerman, where does Albert Rusnak make the most sense, and how do we get Damir Kreilach to not be the “striker.”
Matt: Ian took the words right out of my mouth. Totally agreed on all counts. I’d also say our biggest strength is that we seem like we’re going to be terrible, so there’s only one place to go from there. (I hope that direction is up.)
Megan: This isn’t really an answer to the question just a comment: But Ian’s biggest strength, being the continuity of our roster, doesn’t particularly excite me seeing as how the last few seasons have gone. Hopefully I’m wrong on that but I don’t know how optimistic to be returning half the starters from a losing season.
Nothing keeping me up at night, but I’m a little worried about our CB depth like most people I think.— Carter Crosland 43-15 SZN (@CoachCarterG) April 20, 2021
Joseph: And with good reason! Granted, we have only one less center-back than last year, but when that center-back is someone like Nedum there is a big hole to fill that hasn’t been filled. I would personally love for this to be an opportunity for an academy CB to get a shot (I hear that Farnsworth kid is pretty good) through squad rotation and the inevitable Marcelo Silva suspension and/or injury. I’m mostly just surprised at this point that there haven't been any serious rumors about us pursuing any CB’s this off season.
Megan: This is a concern for me as well. I am a big Justen Glad supporter and have been for a while now but Nedum Onuoha seemed to have left a Jamison Olave-esque hole in his retirement. Although Glad and Onuoha tried their best to be the Borchers/Olave duo, I don’t see Glad as a Borchers or anyone replacing Onuoha as an Olave.
Is Minnesota actually good? How is that possible? What are your thoughts on Adrian Heath as a manager? I have a hard time taking them seriously and thinking they’re good, because Spenno has convinced me he’s not a good manager. — Sean M, Slack
Matt: I don’t know. I actually rarely know if any MLS team is actually good. This league is so weird. Historic results rarely mean anything, so I guess we’ll find out!
Which one of our stars will be on the bench? Kreilach, rusnak, ruiz, luiz— MLS Collectors (@RobertKreib) April 20, 2021
Matt: Yeah, I think that’s a fair response, Ian. We actually talked about this one in the most recent episode of Off the Crossbar (see the Subscribe to RSL Soapbox podcasts section above) — Kyle thought Everton Luiz was the odd one out here, with Rusnak being a more effective midfielder than winger. I don’t disagree with that, and if you peek at what Joseph says below, you might see that RSL coach Freddy Juarez agrees. That said, none of us on the podcast think Rusnak fits into a high press system, which RSL seems to be attempting, so it’ll be an interesting one.
Joseph: Considering that Freddy told us on “El Show RSL” that Albert’s spot is in the 10 (I'm hoping to get some of those interviews translated in the near future everyone!), my guess is that it’s between Ruiz and Everton. Honestly for me it’s a coin toss on who starts, but if I had to choose one I think that Ruiz starts this one and Everton sits.
How much will the team’s results be held against Freddy? Yes he didn’t exactly have resources this off-season but results will be based on players taking individual steps forward, which comes down to coaching. This will be a big test for how good he really is— Mike Miller (@MillerMike123) April 20, 2021
- This is a good question and there are a few factors to look at. First, with no owner, would a change occur? No, Freddy will most likely be the head coach all season. Second, without Rimando and Beckerman, this is a team where he really can take ownership as the head coach and it will be up to him to step up. Third, it is true, he did not get a ton of new talent in the off season, and on paper the team, that didn’t do amazing last season, is about the same. I think that this will be taken into account as well.
- The real question is, how will the season impact potential buyers and who will the fans blame if the season doesn’t go well? I think that the head coach is part of the package for potential owners, and also someone who buys the team most likely won’t make huge changes early in their ownership. I do think that the fans will be frustrated if the team is not winning, however, I do think they will give Freddy a pass because of the ownership situation.
- It will be a test of how good he really is with all the asterisks of the ownership situation, the hands being tied as far as going after any more pieces for the team, and of course, who will take the brunt of the blame if the team underperforms. What I think will help Freddy a lot, is if he can find a way to get Albert to really thrive and take a step forward this season, and if we can see Ochoa really turn into the keeper we want. In other words can he get the best out of players, and help younger players develop. Ruiz seemed to move forward more when he went on loan, however, Freddy seems to have been able to keep him motivated and in form, which is a good sign.
1. CB Depth - Who steps in when Silva goes down/out? 2. How tactically flexible are we as a squad? 3. Curious about the Juarez/Mastroeni coaching balance. 4. Is it time to have Ochoa in goal for the developmental long haul?— Ryan Bruckman (@RyanBruckman) April 20, 2021
- CB depth is probably going to be a longstanding talking point this season, but at least we won’t be losing Glad to the Olympics . I’m not going to pick on this one too deeply because it’s going to get picked on, but it looks like Nick Besler will once again be in the added role of our last-line-of-defense central defender.
- I think this is a major question that needs to be answered this season. How tactically flexible have we been? Not very. Kyle Beckerman played a massive role in our on-field tactics, however, and I see the possibility of things evolving this season. That’s a huge spot open for guys to take as their own. A lot of that flexibility is going to revolve around our striker(s) and the need for Kreilach to fill—or, hopefully, not be needed to fill—that role. If we can find a way to make goals happen, it opens a lot of options for tactical flexibility.
- Another huge curiosity that’s going to take some time to figure out. How friendly are Juarez and Mastroeni? How professionally do they work together? Is Mastroeni under the impression that if Juarez fails, the head coaching job is his to walk into? Does Mastroeni have a learner’s mindset? I think he’s a top mind to have on the coaching staff. I think he’s going to make things fun. He knows how to play as a member of a team, and if that can translate to his coaching, RSL might just have a very strong assistant to help us win games. His presence and professionalism could provide the tactical flexibility to answer the previous question positively.
- Yes. Please. I honestly think it should have been done last year. You develop a guy, you give him a chance! Or else he leaves to play for a Liga MX team and all of that development is lost as an RSL benefit. He showed he can rock it with the Monarchs. He showed he can handle it at Olympic Qualifiers, where he also made mistakes. We’re going to have to get through both: the great and the erroneous. He needs to step up and show he deserves that starting gig, but he also deserves some leeway to make mistakes as he continues to develop into what we can only hope will be our next decades-long killer goalkeeper.
If a CB gets injured and another is out for card accumulation or something, who would you start at CB?— Jake Vaughn (@thejayveesquad) April 20, 2021
Joseph: It’s probably going to be Besler. Although I hope that he never has to play CB for us again, I have a really hard time thinking about who else could step in there. Now, if we want to go into a strange, hypothetical world, it would be interesting to see Herrera get shifted in there from the right or see if Ashtone Morgan could take that spot for a game. Because other than that, we’re probably looking at Damir in that position and I never ever ever ever ever ever ever EVER want to see that happen.
Matt: I think you’re right, Joseph. I do think the front office is looking at center backs, but I don’t think we’ll see any before the secondary transfer window. That said, I’d love to be wrong. Also, I’m going to have to disagree. I want to see Damir Kreilach at center back. For the chaos.
Will we use more than 2 subs? What do we do if Glad gets hurt? — Greg, Slack
Ian: First thing we do is cry. Second thing we do is pray for Nick Besler.
Which of our many wingers kinda gets the axe this year? Jeizon? Meram? Chang?— TCreer (@t_creer54) April 20, 2021
Ian: While it’s hard to answer without a lot of minutes into the season...personally I think Meram is who I put on the block. Mostly because I think Jeizon and Chang have a lot of offer the organization as a whole.
Joseph: My guess is Jeizon. He didn’t play much during pre-season and we haven’t seen much of him. I did like the little bit of flare he showed it the pre-season game vs Sacramento, he looks like the bottom of the pecking order out of those three you mentioned.
Megan: I have spent this whole time agreeing with Ian and I will continue to. I think the relative young-ness that Jeizon and Chang have to them gives them more time to prove their way. I think if a player like Meram stops carrying his weight, his head is quicker to the chopping block.
Will Pablo Ruiz evolve into his next form this year and the heir apparent to Beckerman? And will more or less than 10 academy graduates this year play for UVU next season? — Jordan, Slack
- He definitely could. After the last year the club has had though, I live in constant fear that his new found glory will be diminished by the muck in the front office over the past year.
- That’s a tough one. I think we won’t see the “Beckerman Effect” at UVU for at least another whole year. I reckon the current class has already signed to a school. It will be interesting to see if that ends up becoming part of the pipeline.
It's always been the same for months. When will we have a new owner!?— Patrick Clark (@BehindTheLines7) April 20, 2021
Matt: Your guess is as good as mine. Here’s hoping it’s soon.