Skip to content

Major League Soccer team previews: REAL SALT LAKE

Feb 26, 2013, 6:00 PM EDT

RSL logo

Each day from now until the beginning of Major League Soccer’s 18th season, we will preview one Eastern Conference team and one from the West. First kick is March 2.

No. 3 in the West is Real Salt Lake:

Significant additions and subtractions: A major roster shakeup, unfolding in a burst just after 2012 MLS Cup, was strange stuff for one of the most stable MLS clubs in terms of personnel. Fabian Espindola, scorer of a highly respectable 25 goals around Rio Tinto over the last three seasons, is now in New York. So is huge center back Jamison Olave, who spent years commanding RSL’s back line – although he was perhaps a little too brittle for the price. Or so RSL management reckoned.

With all that, it’s hard to say who the men in Utah will miss more, Espindola, Olave or Will Johnson, whose leadership, drive and ability to cover midfield ground will be difficult to replace in Utah. The Canadian international is now in Portland.

Strengths: Start with Kyle Beckerman, possibly behind only Osvaldo Alonso in the league’s ranking of holding midfielders.

Stability goes a long way in MLS. Jason Kreis may be only 40, but he also carries the league’s second-longest running tenure at a club, behind only Dominic “Dean” Kinnear at Houston. Kreis has come a long way from his time (not too awfully long ago) when the high-scoring striker stepped off the field at age 34 and immediately into RSL’s managerial seat. (He’s still the youngest coach to win an MLS Cup, by the way.)

Kreis and other club leaders love Chris Schuler and Kwame Watson-Siriboe, but neither one can match Olave at his best. They have wonderful potential and are sure to be even better whenever the injured Nat Borchers gets healthy and can provide direction alongside one of them; that probably won’t happen until April, earliest.

Pressure points: One of the league’s standard bearers in organizational stability is going through its most significant roster shift in years, an overhaul that gets the club younger here and there and deals with the naturally escalating salaries that handcuff any successful club.

Beckerman, for instance, strong shepherd that he is, will have a younger midfield flock around him to guide this year. That will be especially true until injured playmaker Javier Morales gets back on the field.

Chris Wingert and Tony Beltran are fine MLS outside backs. But they no longer have Olave (who was faster than many realized, able to hurry over toward the touchlines in moments of big danger) to go clean up any mistakes. It might even change the way Wingert and Beltran play, perhaps creating a slightly more cautious approach about where to challenge and when to move forward.

source: Getty Images

Difference maker: Nick Rimando was good in 2012, whereas he was great in 2011. It would be a stretch to say he was in decline last year; then again, he needs to arrest any slippage now, before we would recognize something we could more accurately define as “decline.” With Rimando furthest back and Costa Rican international Alvaro Saborio (17 goals last year, third best in MLS) occupying the highest spot on the field, the club has experienced, dependable bookends.

Potential breakout player: It’s a big year for Luis Gil, still only 19, but who has already been part of the RSL roster for two-plus years. The U.S. under-20 has 33 starts for RSL and a major role in the midfield this year, more or less replacing Johnson. He’s got tons of skill and he understands exactly how RSL wants to work the diamond midfield and the overall system, back to front. The Californian has “breakout” written all over him.

Bottom line: There’s no question the club will miss Olave, Johnson and Espindola, and no one around Rio Tinto relished seeing them go. The moves were all about salary cap and long-range planning. They’ll suffer a bit in the spring and perhaps into the summer. The question around Rio Tinto is what the team looks like in the fall, and there’s enough reason to believe things will shake out OK.

(MORE: full roster of ProSoccerTalk’s Major League Soccer previews and predictions)

Latest Posts
  1. Round 3: USA-Japan Women’s World Cup final a familiar matchup

    Jul 2, 2015, 12:59 AM EDT

    150702-Wambach-Sawa Getty Images

    Japan beat the U.S. to win the 2011 World Cup. The U.S. beat Japan to win the 2012 Olympics. Round 3 takes place Sunday in the 2015 Women’s World Cup final.

  2. Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup roundup: Dwyer bags four, RBNY top Cosmos, quarterfinals set

    Jul 2, 2015, 12:28 AM EDT

    Sporting KC's Dom Dwyer (14) heads a ball over the New England Revolution's Jose Goncalves (23) in the first half at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., on Wednesday, May 20, 2015. (David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images) Getty Images

    A Major League Soccer franchise is going to win the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

  3. ‘She’s in a hard place': England boss Sampson consoles, praises Bassett after semifinal loss

    Jul 1, 2015, 11:57 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Mark Sampson spoke in detail about the character of Laura Bassett and how he hopes girls in England are inspired for the future.

  4. Bassett’s long journey takes cruel twist, but England women show future is bright

    Jul 1, 2015, 11:11 PM EDT

    EDMONTON, AB - JULY 01:  Laura Bassett of England is comforted by Jo Potter after the FIFA Women's World Cup Semi Final match between Japan and England at the Commonwealth Stadium on July 1, 2015 in Edmonton, Canada.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Full credit to England for an inspiring World Cup, and to Japan for getting to a second straight World Cup final.

  5. Clavicle injury could cost Mexico’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez his Gold Cup (video)

    Jul 1, 2015, 10:51 PM EDT

    during practice for the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on June 5, 2015 in Montreal, Canada. Getty Images

    Three weeks from tonight are the Gold Cup semifinals, with the final on July 26 in Philadelphia.

  6. The world wants Laura Bassett to know that her own goal is nothing to be ashamed of…

    Jul 1, 2015, 10:11 PM EDT

    during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Semi Final match between Japan and England on Canada Day at Commonwealth Stadium on July 1, 2015 in Edmonton, Canada. Getty Images

    From Brandi Chastain and Jeb Brovsky to total strangers from England and beyond, my goodness, people are trying to console Laura Bassett.

  7. Minnesota United misses MLS stadium deadline; Deputy commissioner speaks out

    Jul 1, 2015, 9:12 PM EDT

    BLAINE, MN -JULY 19: Minnesota United FC defenseman celebrates with fans after scoring a goal on Swansea City in the first half of their friendly soccer match on July 19, 2014 at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minnesota. Minnesota United FC defeated Swansea City 2-0.(Photo by Andy Clayton-King/Getty Images) Getty Images

    United says it remains committed to bringing MLS to Minnesota, and it’s worth wondering if the rival Minnesota group is hampering progress.

  8. Stoppage-time own goal sinks England, sends Japan to Women’s World Cup final

    Jul 1, 2015, 9:02 PM EDT

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Defending champion Japan advances to second straight Women’s World Cup final.

  9. Targeted by Man Utd and other giants, Ilkay Gundogan extends deal with BVB

    Jul 1, 2015, 8:20 PM EDT

    MUNICH, GERMANY - APRIL 28:  Philipp Lahm of Muenchen challenges for the ball with Ilkay Gündogan of Dortmund during the DFB Cup semi final match between FC Bayern Muenchen and Borussia Dortmund at Allianz Arena on April 28, 2015 in Munich, Germany.  (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Bongarts/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Big story for Dortmund, even if it’s a bit under-the-radar.

  10. VIDEO: Donovan talks USWNT, perceived anti-Klinsmann Tweet on “The Dan Patrick Show”

    Jul 1, 2015, 7:30 PM EDT

    Ecuador v United States Getty Images

    Donovan, of course, was left off the World Cup roster last summer by Klinsmann, much to the chagrin of many U.S. fans.

  11. WATCH LIVE: Japan and England duel for World Cup final date with the USWNT

    Jul 1, 2015, 6:45 PM EDT

    AUGSBURG, GERMANY - JULY 05: Sophie Bradley of England is challenged by Azusa Iwashimizu of Japan during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2011 group B match between England and Japan at the FIFA World Cup stadiumon July 5, 2011 in Augsburg, Germany.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images) Getty Images

    England’s fairytale run to its first Women’s World Cup semifinal meets the reigning champions in Edmonton on Wednesday

  12. Finally with New York City FC, Lampard’s teammates react after first training session

    Jul 1, 2015, 5:50 PM EDT

    instagram.com/davidvilla instagram.com/davidvilla

    Shay Facey knows Lampard from his time at Manchester City, and wasn’t bashful in praising the situation.

  13. Daley Blind’s father Danny tabbed as Guus Hiddink’s Netherlands successor

    Jul 1, 2015, 5:10 PM EDT

    Daley Blind of Holland, assistant trainer Danny Blind of Holland during the International friendly match between Netherlands and Spain on March 31, 2015 at the Amsterdam Arena in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images) Getty Images

    The legendary Ajax defender will be stepping up from the assistant’s chair to try and rescue Holland’s Euro 2016 fate.

  14. Inter Milan adds Miranda as rebuild continues at San Siro

    Jul 1, 2015, 4:26 PM EDT

    MADRID, SPAIN - MARCH 17: Joao Miranda (L) of Atletico de Madrid wins the header before Stefan Kiessling (R) of Bayer 04 Leverkusen during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Bayer 04 Leverkusen at Vicente Calderon Stadium on March 17, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images) Getty Images

    He’s the latest addition for Roberto Mancini at the San Siro, along with Monaco midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia and Granada defender Jeison Murillo.

  15. Stars of CONCACAF: Ranking the top 10 players at the 2015 Gold Cup

    Jul 1, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    As we gear up for a massive Gold Cup tournament, here’s a look at the superstars who will be on show in the United States of America.

  16. Done Deals: Swansea sign Eder, Douglas to Bayern, Martinez to Atletico and more

    Jul 1, 2015, 2:20 PM EDT

    FC Bayern Muenchen - Training Session Getty Images

    With the summer transfer window officially open, plenty of deals have started to trickle through. Here’s a roundup of the latest.

  17. VIDEO: Abby Wambach wants Japan in World Cup final for “fairytale ending”

    Jul 1, 2015, 1:50 PM EDT

    USA v Germany: Semi Final - FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 USA v Germany: Semi Final - FIFA Women's World Cup 2015

    USWNT legend Wambach joins the Dan Patrick show to preview the Women’s World Cup final.

  18. World Cup semifinal preview: Defending champs Japan take on England

    Jul 1, 2015, 1:15 PM EDT

    England v Canada Quarter Final - FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Getty Images

    Can the Three Lionesses cause another upset to set up a clash with the USA in the final?

  19. Radamel Falcao’s family claim he has sealed transfer to Chelsea

    Jul 1, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT

    Falcao AP

    Colombian forward is inching towards a move to Stamford Bridge.

  20. Julie Johnston hails USWNT’s resilience, togetherness after reaching World Cup final

    Jul 1, 2015, 11:50 AM EDT

    FBL-WC-2015-WOMEN-MATCH49-USA-GER FBL-WC-2015-WOMEN-MATCH49-USA-GER

    After giving away a PK in a pivotal moment of the USWNT’s World Cup semifinal, Johnston thanked her teammates for their support.

Featured video

PST Extra: Done deals & transfer gossip