With Albert Rusnák officially stating that he is not returning to Real Salt Lake, it is time to think about who captains the Claret and Cobalt next.
Who are the contenders? Who are the pretenders? It is worth mentioning up front that some may have been surprised by Rusnák being offered the armband last season. There were some who thought others would take the position as captain. While Rusnák got off to a slow start last season, he did eventually end the season with double-digit assists and goals. And while at RSL, he brought excellence to the team.
Before getting to the contenders and pretenders, it might be worth exploring what makes a great captain. There is probably no better example of what we might look for than in Kyle Beckerman.
He really did embody so much of the team that won the MLS Cup in 2009 and was runner up in 2013. His durability, fire, drive and leadership were sorely missed last season, even if he had lost a step or two in his final season (debatable, as he still played at a very high level.)
What made him a captain? One thing I loved about watching him play was that no matter the score, you knew that Captain Kyle was going to keep trying, keep fighting. Yes, we want that in a captain. Is the captain always the highest paid player or the “best” player on the pitch? No.
So, let’s start with the contenders.
Damir Kreilach - What makes him a compelling choice? He has been a leader and game changer at Real Salt Lake. He seems to come up big when we most need him to. The players seem to respect him and listen to him, and he leads while on the pitch.
Justen Glad - He has been a staple of the backline for years now at RSL and he is a homegrown player. He has shown touches of brilliance, and he could make a good choice for captain. Not always the most vocal on the pitch, but he might rise to the occasion.
David Ochoa - Hear me out. He has a fire. He doesn’t mind the whole crowd hating him, and will even get in the head of other teams. He is passionate and a leader. He is young, yes, and also I think players would follow his leadership.
Justin Meram - He showed greatness at times off the bench, and also, he is most likely not going to start every match, and you want your captain on the pitch as much as possible. He is also most likely not a long-term option for RSL anyway, but he does bring a veteran presence to the pitch, and could be a leader to the other players.
Bobby Wood - He has the long-term soccer chops to be a captain. He has played on the biggest stages, and also he knows a lot of people in the soccer world. Younger players look up to him. Once again, I don’t know if he will be around long-term or if he will find a starting role.
Aaron Herrera - Talent-wise, yes. Is he the leader on the pitch we want him to be? Maybe not. It might lock him into a long-term deal if he was given the armband, but I don’t see him being the captain of the team long-term.
So, who will get the armband? Time will tell. Could we, as a fanbase, and the players on Real Salt Lake follow a player like Damier Kreilach? I think so. Could he be our new captain? I wouldn’t doubt it. And if he is, well, I would welcome it!