2022 is a year of great change for Real Salt Lake: With new ownership in place, there’s a newfound sense of optimism permeating everything the club is doing.
As we at RSL Soapbox prepare for the upcoming season, some of our writers have tackled one big question: Why is Real Salt Lake better in 2022? What things are giving us hope and new reasons to watch the team?
RSL is better off in 2022 for a few reasons, not least of which is that culture is king. RSL has new ownership that thus far seems committed to investing in the club and building a culture that gives the players, employees, and fans something to rally around. By all accounts, the culture within Real Salt Lake is much improved and there is a renewed energy from top to bottom.
There are a few positions that Elliot Fall and crew must solidify, but even within the current roster you can find players that will have benefited from an offseason and a true preseason to gel with the others. For example, Bobby Wood. Wood is poised to have a breakout season in MLS now that he is settled in Salt Lake, has his family with him, and is now familiar with how the league operates and what it takes to win. The skill of the former USMNT regular is there, just waiting to explode on the scene again. Couple that with the injection of Sergio Cordova up front and RSL could be very dangerous if things play out the way they should.
— Randal Serr
RSL will continue to move forward in 2022, as they build on their late surge to end the 2021. The dust is still settling following another head coaching change (and more importantly, ownership change) but all early signs point to progress and an emphasis on continuity. There are still some glaring roster holes, but many of the key contributors are back again, this time surrounded by some intriguing acquisitions.
The Academy movement continues to be fruitful as we wait and see who the next breakout graduate will be. Affording the young players the opportunity to be surround by proven veterans, along with other successful academy standouts from previous years, will help RSL keep a positive trajectory moving into the future. This is especially true if the new ownership can find success in their Designated Player signings and push the club to an even higher level.
— Jordan Jacobsen
I might be in the minority here, but I don’t think our Western Conference playoff run last season was a fluke. I really don’t. I think we gelled at the right time as a team - and we did that without Albert Rusnak who was sick, in fact, when he came back, we suffered. So, I think that with Captain Kreilach, new owners, a deep run last season, and signings — more are coming — I think we return to the playoffs. Will we start slow? Yep! Will we do better the later the season goes? Yep!
What I am really excited about going into this season is that I think the new owners are going to create an atmosphere of fun and connection again with the fans. I think the players are going to be hungry, I think we are saving money from Albert’s bloated contract, and that money is going to go into signings. I think Bobby Wood is going to show why he was a good signing. I think that Sergio Cordova is going to be great, Rubio Rubin and Anderson Julio and well, I think we are going to be more offensively minded than teams think!
We have one of the best young keepers in the world — I do not think that is an exaggeration — and I think we are going to have enough defensive play to stay in most matches! So, go Real!
— Russell MacKay
2022 could be the year that Real Salt Lake truly invests in prospects from around the globe. While we have yet to see the fruit of new ownership in that regard, assurances are very much present across the board: Ownership can invest, and ownership can invest heavily. This is a significant change from the days of 2021, certainly, when there was no true ownership to foot the bill for discretionary targeted allocation money or designated players. It’s also a big change from the days of 2020, when Dell Loy Hansen was reluctant to invest in playing personnel, preferring his money to be spent on facilities.
There is still yet to be proof of all this, of course. Real Salt Lake fans are operating on faith when assuming that David Blitzer and Ryan Smith will put money into the team. There is reason to believe they will, but the prospect of being able to, rather than a simple understanding that it won’t happen, is enough to bring new life to my fandom.
— Matt Montgomery