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RSL players to watch in Desert Diamond Cup: A primer on some new prospects

Jennifer Stewart

Our final leg of preseason preparations begins in earnest today, with the Desert Diamond Cup kicking off this evening.

We'll face New England Revolution, and though the match won't be streamed, highlights will be available after the fact. Still, there are plenty of reasons to be interested, and there are some things we could learn about the squad through the tournament.

Players to watch for

Luke Mulholland: The apparently-feisty midfielder from Preston, England, fills a hole in the midfield we've missed since the departure of Will Johnson. How he adapts to life in MLS will be telling, and preseason matches against MLS opponents give him an opportunity to set a baseline performance level.

Joey Dillon: Will the Georgetown midfielder make the squad? Chances are slim at the moment -- we simply don't have any room for more players without removing one -- but has he shown enough that he could make it in past, say, Ryan Neil, our first-round draft pick? Where exactly he plays in the midfield, supposing he makes the gameday squads for the Cup, will be telling.

Ryan Neil: The full back signed with RSL, but his position isn't as sure-footed as that would imply. As above, Joey Dillon presents an option that could be appealing, but Neil, a full back, provides important cover. He's a long-term prospect in a position with some question marks (i.e., can Rich Balchan stay fit? Can Abdoulie Mansally calm down? How much longer does Chris Wingert have?)  — that could be his saving grace.

Benji Lopez: A young, talented striker, Lopez will find playing time hard to come by in 2014 unless he makes substantial improvements. I don't think anybody's expecting that from him at this point, and that's not a terrible thing. His squad spot doesn't seem at risk, and that should give him plenty of time to develop. His involvement with the United States U-20s indicates he's a hot prospect, and this will probably be one of a few times you get to see him this year outside of reserves action.

Jordan Allen: He's one of the most innately talented players to arrive at Real Salt Lake in recent memory, regardless of age. Formerly one of the best (read: top 10, easily) prospects in youth soccer during his RSL academy days, and a College Cup starter as a freshman, Allen has been tipped to make the bench in even his earliest days at the club. He has plenty of experience at RSL with the reserves, so transition won't be too difficulty for him. Watching him in the Desert Diamond Cup will be only the beginning.