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Let’s Play GM 2022: Survey Results and Analysis

I asked you all to play GM, and here’s what you thought!

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Austin FC Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

A few weeks ago I put out a survey here on the Soapbox asking all of you for your thoughts on what Real Salt Lake should do with their current roster in the offseason, and WOW did I get a response. I was not expecting anything near the 507 responses I got, so thank you so much to all who took the time and effort to fill it out!

My main goal with this survey was to gauge the general fanbase’s feelings about the roster ahead of RSL releasing their roster decisions. Then I wanted to compare what the fans wanted with what the club actually did. This will include some of my own conclusions and opinions based on the data, so know that not everything here is just numbers. If you have thoughts about any of these responses, go ahead and bring it up in the comments! You can see all the results for yourself here.

To summarize the club’s official statement, here are the players who will not return to RSL next year:

  • Tate Schmitt (option declined)
  • Chris Garcia (option declined)
  • Bret Halsey (option declined)
  • Johan Kappelhof (option declined)
  • Nick Besler (option declined)

The following players are in contract negotiations according to either the press release or public statements by RSL General Manager, Elliot Fall:

  • Bobby Wood (option declined)
  • Marcelo Silva (out of contract)
  • Thomas Gomez (out of contract)
  • Sergio Cordova (out of contract/end of loan)

Now, according to the survey, here is the list of players who the fans would not like to return for 2023. I judged this based on a majority of voters voting for a player to not return. Differences from the club’s decisions are emphasized:

  • Tomas Gomez (65.3%)
  • Bret Halsey (68%)
  • Erik Holt (91.1%)
  • Johan Kappelhoff (81.1%)
  • Nick Besler (69.6%)
  • Scott Caldwell (50.7%)
  • Chris Garcia (54.6%)
  • Jonathan Menendez (78.9%) - There was no mention of him in RSL’s statement, but his loan to Velez in Argentina is up at the end of the year.
  • Danny Musovski (65.9%)
  • Rubio Rubin (67.1%)

Easily the biggest outlier here is Erik Holt, who fans were just as apt to get rid of as they were to keep players like Diego Luna, Marcelo Silva, and Japer Loffelsend. I can see why for a couple of reasons. One, Holt has had more lows than highs during his first team appearances over the years. Two, by removing Holt from the roster, that bumps up young players like Jaziel Orozco and Zack Farnsworth higher in the depth chart, or makes room for the club to bring in a different center back to play backup to Justen Glad and Silva. But here I also understand the club’s thought process in bringing him back. His cap hit is low at $125,000 (by comparison Kappelhoff was at $287,000), he’s a known commodity within the club, and this year was the first time that I would say that he had a really strong set of games at an MLS level. His scattered minutes at the end of the season overshadow the stretch of really good performances he had in March of this year where playing in a back 3 with Glad and Silva, the team went 3-1-1. Oh and that one loss came from a goal that happened after he got subbed off with an injury at halftime against SKC. I think both sides of the argument have merit, and we’ll just have to see what 2023 holds for the RSL academy product.

I won’t analyze these others as much, but the decision to get rid of Caldwell, while just by .7%, confuses me. Sure, he shouldn’t be a starter every week, but I thought he did a good enough job overall to be a part of the midfield rotation next year. I think there was a bit of recency bias with him because of the penalty he gave up against Austin. I also think that Rubio Rubin had a bad year, but the recency bias of his red card definitely didn’t do him any favors in this survey. Musovski and Gomez were players where I don’t think fans will be upset by the club’s decisions.

Now for players who were retained by less than you might think, or by the skin of their teeth:

  • Zack Farnsworth (51.5%)
  • Aaron Herrera (62.9%)
  • Maikel Chang (60.6%)
  • Pablo Ruiz (54.8%)
  • Tate Schmitt (51.5%)

I’ll start with Herrera and Ruiz. Both had a considerably large percentage of voters wanting to try and sell or loan them this offseason. I think that if RSL is going to get something on the market for either player, this offseason would be a great time to do it. But on the other hand, I also think they would be good players for RSL going forward. We’ll have to see what happens over the coming months.

Farnsworth and Schmitt were both on a knife’s edge on this one. A lot of people (40%) suggested selling or loaning Farnsworth, which kind of makes sense. He’s just getting back from an injury that kept him off the field for over a year, and a loan would be a good option for him to get consistent minutes. But he could also get that with the Monarchs. He and Orozco are in that same boat in my opinion and whatever option gets them the most consistent playing time is what I’m here for. Schmitt is an interesting case, but since the fans were split the club made the choice for them! He had great highs and bad lows, and with the acquisition of World Cup bound Bryan Oviedo, his option being declined makes sense.

To wrap this part up, here are a few other decisions I thought were interesting:

  • 28.8% of fans wanted RSL to re-negotiate Damir Kreiach’s contract
  • 35.7% of fans want RSL to trigger Braian Ojeda’s purchase option before the 2023 season
  • 23.9% of fans don’t want Sergio Cordova to return in 2023. I bet if this survey was done in July that number would have been higher
  • 32% of fans wanted RSL to renegotiate Bobby Wood’s contract. 32.6% wanted his option declined. 35.4% wanted his option exercised
  • The player with the highest overall retention rate was Jasper Loffelsend with 99.6%. Only 1 person did not want him back through his club option or a new contract. Jefferson Savarino was a close 2nd with a solid 99%. Whoever the 1 person was who said we should buy out his contract and let him walk, I hope you’re ok
  • The highest overall retention amongst academy kids 22 and younger is Bode Hidalgo at 93.9%. Non-academy u22 is Braian Ojeda at 98.6%

Expansion Draft Protected List

I figured the easiest thing would be to list the 12 most protected players in order:

  • Jefferson Savarino (99%)
  • Damir Kreilach (96.3%)
  • Jasper Loffelsend (96.3%)
  • Andrew Brody (95.7%)
  • Zac MacMath (92.1%)
  • Bryan Ojeda (90.3%)
  • Bryan Oviedo (87.6%)
  • Marcelo Silva (87.6%)
  • Anderson Julio (86.2%)
  • Sergio Cordova (73.8%)
  • Pablo Ruiz (69.8%)
  • Justin Meram (60.7%)

Overall I think this is a really solid protected list that we put together! Just as a reminder, Homegrown players under the age of 25 are automatically protected, which is why players like Justen Glad and Diego Luna don’t show up here. I only really have two points that I want do debate with this list.

First is swapping Sergio Cordova for Rubio Rubin. Like I said before, I don’t think recency bias did Rubio any favors here, but I think it might be better to protect him instead of Cordova. For starters, Rubin has a guaranteed contract with us, Cordova does not as of this article’s publication. If Rubio is left unprotected and gets selected, we will be down a forward without any guarantee that Cordova comes back. If Cordova is unprotected and gets selected, there was no guaranteed return in the first place, which would open up possibilities to bring in a different forward at his price range.

The other is swapping Justin Meram for Maikel Chang. The difference with these players are their salary cap hits. According to the most recently available public numbers, Meram made $468,750 last year and Chang made $98,261. With the numbers these two players put up last year, both can still play at an MLS level and contribute in the attack, and honestly Chang is a steal at that price. I’d rather not lose either, but with only so many protected spots available, I think looking at a player’s cap hit matters.

Monarchs Callups!

This was one of my favorite parts of the survey! As a recent Real Monarchs convert, I thought it would be fun to see which Monarchs contracted players the fans want to get a crack at the first team. RSL tends to bring up a couple of Monarchs players to the first team every few years, so who are the fans’ top candidates? 110 fans responded, and here are the top five players they want to get a shot at the first team next season:

  • Pedro Fonseca (30.9%)
  • Tyrone Mondi (30.9%)
  • Bobby Pierre (29.1%)
  • Golden Mafwenta (29.1%)
  • Aziz Kayondo (26.4%)

If those percentages look low, it’s because they are. The way I posed this question in the survey allowed people to select as many players as they wanted, which I think explains the low numbers of votes per player. Going off of this list, I think with Tate Schmitt not coming back next year, that leaves a place wide open for Aziz Kayondo to come in as a depth-chart left back. However, he would take an international spot, which might be what keeps him at the Monarchs. Mondi and Fonseca could be interesting options up top and in the midfield, but my guess is that they stay with the Monarchs because of how far down they would be in the depth chart, and the fact that they might take up international roster spots. And while I like Pierre and Mafewnta, the first team roster already has enough depth at center back and defensive midfield that I think it’s safe to say they will stay with the Monarchs too. If any of those players sign with the first team though, I would be pretty stoked for them, so go ahead and tell me I’m wrong, Mr. Fall, and sign one of these guys.