Jan 25, 2013, 12:00 PM EDT
(Through the week we’ll look at three Major League Soccer clubs per day, considering what they need to accomplish and what questions deserve answers during preseason training camps. Opening day in MLS is March 2.)
What an eventful off-season this has been around Rio Tinto, across all levels of the franchise.
First came the personnel upheaval as one of the league’s more stable clubs turned its roster on its head. GM Garth Lagerwey and manager Jason Kreis, recognizing that things had gone a little stale, dropped some bold moves as quickly as possible into December. Gone were bedrocks Jamison Olave, Fabian Espindola and Will Johnson.
Later, in moving to recreate some of that bedrock stability, playmaker Javier Morales saw his contract extended.
But as preseason drills began, some “wobbly” returned club with the out-of-nowhere announcement that ownership was in flux.
Salt Lake City may represent one of the smaller markets and may dwell in a so-called fly-over state, but Rio Tinto Stadium is certainly no boring place at the moment. As far as on-field activity, here’s what Jason Kreis and Co. need to address in preseason:
- What the 2013 back line looks like, especially early while dealing with injury?
Jamison Olave, a lineup staple at Rio Tinto for the last four seasons, is gone, now in New York. Nat Borchers had recent quadriceps surgery and his return is perhaps the biggest mystery clouding preseason camp. Truly, club officials don’t seem to have a good handle on whether this is a long-term process or something shorter.
Chris Wingert has a broken foot, which might not be as concerning but for the pile-up of injury and roster attrition around it.
Chris Schuler and Tony Beltran will be the stability providers early, with steady veteran goalkeeper Nick Rimando providing the calm reassurance and useful information from behind. Still, Kreis will need to sort out the best defensive structure and personnel rotation, probably with Plan A, B and C to account for various scenarios.
- Where is Robbie Findley’s head?
With Espíndola gone and Costa Rican international Alvaro Saborio likely to miss matches here and there for international operations, Findley sets up as a major part of the goal-scoring plan around Sandy this year.
That would be fine if this was the same Findley who left Utah back in January of 2011, having hit for a respectable 29 goals over four seasons. But is he the same guy?
Things did not go well in Findley’s efforts to elevate his career abroad; slowed by injury, the 27-year-old striker never gained a foothold at Nottingham Forest.
There are wincing parallels here to Edson Buddle, who left for Europe about the same time as Findley, experienced a similarly flawed outcome and then returned to MLS a different, lesser figure.
Findley says confidence remains high. We’ll see, and we know that confidence means everything for strikers. So, how is Findley’s? And how can Kreis manage matters in preseason to reinforce it?
- What, exactly, are the expectations for 2013?
We cannot look at a team with U.S. international Kyle Beckerman (pictured), Morales, Rimando, Borchers, Beltran and Olave as a team in rebuilding mode. But with key components gone and with Borchers’ availability in question, the club does seem to be in some level of transition.
Kreis must decide how much, and how soon, to mash the gas pedal, how much to demand. There’s a sweet spot between aiming too low and setting unrealistic expectations, therefore setting up the side for disappointment.
If things fall right, RSL remains a contender. But if a couple of things go wrong, they may need to downshift and look for smaller victories, at least for the time being.
MORE in ProSoccerTalk’s preseason camp series:
- Chicago Fire
- Chivas USA
- Colorado Rapids
- Columbus Crew
- D.C. United
- FC Dallas
- Houston Dynamo
- LA Galaxy
- Montreal Impact
- New England Revolution
- New York Red Bulls
- Philadelphia Union
- Portland Timbers
Up Next: San Jose Earthquakes
Oct 24, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT
Who makes the cut as MLS players deserving of a look at USMNT camp?
Oct 24, 2014, 10:25 AM EDT
An all-MLS final appearance is impossible thanks to seeding, and Montreal and DC can only face-off if they win in the quarterfinals this winter.
Oct 24, 2014, 9:38 AM EDT
The purpose of the show is for the Robbies to hear from the fans on this call-in show, so dial 855-323-4622 and have your say.
Oct 24, 2014, 9:22 AM EDT
El Clasico is upon us, and my goodness will it be a doozy between Real Madrid and Barcelona on Saturday at the Bernabeu.
Oct 24, 2014, 8:31 AM EDT
French police had arrested a man for selling drugs, according to the BBC, and that earned the ire of already on-edge Everton supporters.
Oct 24, 2014, 7:44 AM EDT
The European Club Association includes at least one club from every nation in UEFA and includes Manchester United, Chelsea and Barcelona.
Oct 24, 2014, 12:17 AM EDT
Previewing the last weekend of full-tilt MLS competition.
Oct 23, 2014, 11:06 PM EDT
Lille and Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama thinks it would be dangerous to hold the Africa Cup of Nations with the Ebola outbreak.
Oct 23, 2014, 10:22 PM EDT
Brazil’s national football team has a new code of conduct under manager Dunga.
Oct 23, 2014, 8:57 PM EDT
Wonderful touch and power utilized on a first-class goal from Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Erik Lamela.
Oct 23, 2014, 8:20 PM EDT
Harry Kane notched a hat trick in Tottenham’s Europa League victory over Asteras Tripoli, and he then found himself manning the goal as a netminder following a Hugo Lloris red card.
Oct 23, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT
Lille and Everton played to a 0-0 draw at Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Europa League group stage competition.
Oct 23, 2014, 5:43 PM EDT
Manchester City’s Frank Lampard could be fit to play against West Ham in Premier League competition on Saturday.
Cristiano Ronaldo on El Clasico: ‘I won’t be playing against Messi. I’ll be playing against Barcelona.’
Oct 23, 2014, 4:53 PM EDT
“I won’t be playing against Messi — I’ll be playing against Barcelona,” says Ronaldo, concerning his duel with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.
Oct 23, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers likes what Mario Balotelli has to offer, but he’s unsure if the forward will last a while at Anfield.
Oct 23, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
Will the Blues lose their first game of the season away at Old Trafford on Sunday? JPW and Prindi analyze that and more.
Oct 23, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT
Little Eddie won’t have a say in who he supports, but it’s all for a good cause.
Oct 23, 2014, 1:44 PM EDT
Free agent Valdes arrives to “train with the first team” at United.
Oct 23, 2014, 1:12 PM EDT
Gulati: “Jurgen is our coach and technical director, and I fully expect that to be the case through to the 2018 World Cup.”
Oct 23, 2014, 11:45 AM EDT
With Costa struggling to make the bench, plus Remy out, Chelsea are running out of strikers.
- Introducing: “The 2 Robbies ‘Football’ Show” on NBCSportsRadio.com 0
- El Clasico: Luis Suarez, Barcelona and Real Madrid together at last 0
- VIDEO: Can Manchester United beat Chelsea? PST Extra breaks it down 2
- MLS Atlanta urges David Beckham, Miami to share stadium with Dolphins 10
- Reality check: Outclassed by Real Madrid, what now for Liverpool? 1
- After winless October, USA drop out of top 20 in latest FIFA rankings 6