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
Mar 29, 2015, 11:27 PM EDT
Are Saints about to lose another young star to one of the Premier League’s “big five?” We’ll find out this summer.
Mar 29, 2015, 10:52 PM EDT
Kane will join England’s U-21 squad for this summer’s European Championship.
Mar 29, 2015, 9:18 PM EDT
No fun for 70 minutes, and then the final 20 happened. TFC’s criminally disallowed goal was the only difference in this one.
Mar 29, 2015, 8:48 PM EDT
There’s a real reason, other than “easy schedule,” for England’s improved performances since the World Cup.
Mar 29, 2015, 6:55 PM EDT
Harry Shipp. Harry Shipp. Harry Shipp.
Mar 29, 2015, 5:58 PM EDT
Sterling isn’t interested in negotiating a new deal until the summer — even if it’s for $270,000/week — and a few reassurances are made.
Mar 29, 2015, 4:45 PM EDT
Who’s on top of Groups D, F and I at the halfway point?
Mar 29, 2015, 2:55 PM EDT
Luis Suarez was candid as ever after Gerrard’s charity match, and he opened up the possibility of a Premier League return down the road.
Mar 29, 2015, 12:05 PM EDT
Thierry Henry showed off his sparkling passing skills at Steven Gerrard’s testimonial.
Mar 29, 2015, 10:43 AM EDT
The United States loses one of their goalscorers from Friday’s friendly, but now it’s a youngster’s turn to make a statement.
Mar 29, 2015, 10:14 AM EDT
A whopping turnaround, led by owner Katharina Liebherr, has taken place at St. Mary’s and the financial evidence is there.
Mar 29, 2015, 9:40 AM EDT
If Adnan Januzaj wants to make a return to the Belgium squad, he must focus on earning playing time at his club first.
Mar 29, 2015, 8:13 AM EDT
An agreement has reportedly been reached between the current American owner and a domestic ownership group.
Mar 29, 2015, 7:34 AM EDT
Gareth Bale knows what people are saying about his recent play at Real Madrid, but he’s not listening.
Mar 28, 2015, 11:30 PM EDT
Catch up on all the action from Week 4 of the MLS season.
Mar 28, 2015, 10:41 PM EDT
A disappointing result for FCD, given Seattle’s lack of Dempsey and Martins, but a great one considering their early red card.
Mar 28, 2015, 10:06 PM EDT
Three more points for Vancouver, who win it late on Robert Earnshaw’s Whitecaps debut. He scores for everyone.
Mar 28, 2015, 9:15 PM EDT
It was the late, late, late show at RFK Stadium, and despite being thoroughly outplayed, D.C. United go home with three points.
Mar 28, 2015, 9:04 PM EDT
Sporting KC get their first victory of the season, while NYCFC suffer their first defeat of the year — and history.
- MLS Snapshot: Real Salt Lake 2-1 Toronto FC 2
- EURO 2016 qualifying roundup: Germany back on track; Portugal beat Serbia, go top 0
- Report: Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner set to sell team to UK group 0
- MLS roundup: Whitecaps, D.C. United win late ones; FCD, Sounders in disappointing draw 1
- MLS Snapshot: FC Dallas 0-0 Seattle Sounders 0
- MLS Snapshot: Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 Portland Timbers 2