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. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Manchester City

    Jul 29, 2015, 3:55 PM EDT

    manchester-city-fc-logo

    How different will City’s lineup look at the end of August? It’s hard to project anything without that knowledge, but we’ll make an attempt.

  2. Hull City loses a pair of valuable players to the Premier League

    Jul 29, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    Hull City v Norwich City - Premier League Getty Images

    Robbie Brady and James Chester are leaving the Championship side for new homes back in England’s top flight.

  3. VIDEO: PST Extra – What should we expect from the Premier League’s promoted three?

    Jul 29, 2015, 2:16 PM EDT

    NorwichCity Getty Images

    JPW discusses the chances that Norwich City, Bournemouth, and Watford have of staying up next season.

  4. Arsenal goalkeeper Szczesny officially off to Roma on season-long loan

    Jul 29, 2015, 12:43 PM EDT

    Szczesny Getty Images

    After losing his place at The Emirates last year, the 25-year-old will take a crack at proving himself again in Italy.

  5. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Liverpool

    Jul 29, 2015, 11:40 AM EDT

    LiverpoolLogo

    Can Rodgers and the Reds bounce back to finish in the top four and win some silverware this season? His job might depend on it.

  6. Jose Mourinho hits back at Rafael Benitez’s wife; he “destroyed” Inter Milan, needs new diet

    Jul 29, 2015, 10:37 AM EDT

    UEFA Champions League: Liverpool v Chelsea Getty Images

    Mr. Mourinho and Mrs. Benitez are having a verbal battle via the press. This will not end well.

  7. Chelsea issue injury update on Gary Cahill and Diego Costa

    Jul 29, 2015, 9:40 AM EDT

    FBL-USA-ICCUP-CHELSEA-BARCELONA FBL-USA-ICCUP-CHELSEA-BARCELONA

    Mourinho suffers two injuries to key players in Chelsea’s final game of U.S. tour.

  8. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Leicester City

    Jul 29, 2015, 8:50 AM EDT

    Leicester City logo

    Ranieri has a big job on his hands to keep the Foxes out of the relegation zone. Can he succeed at the KP?

  9. Michel Platini announces he will run for FIFA presidency

    Jul 29, 2015, 8:15 AM EDT

    Legendary French midfielder is red-hot favorite to replace Blatter.

  10. Chelsea 2-2 Barcelona: Good-looking goals to spare in Maryland (video)

    Jul 28, 2015, 10:08 PM EDT

    LANDOVER, MD - JULY 28: Luis Suarez #9 of Barcelona battles with Kurt Zouma #5 of Chelsea in the first half during the International Champions Cup North America at FedExField on July 28, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Close to 80,000 saw Barcelona move to 1-2 in three ICC matches. Barca finishes off its tourney vs. Fiorentina in Florence on Aug. 2.

  11. WATCH: Juking, solo dribble goal by Newcastle’s Haris Vuckic is quite nice

    Jul 28, 2015, 9:16 PM EDT

    NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - JULY 1: Haris Vuckic smiles during the Newcastle United Pre-Season Training session at The Newcastle United Training Centre on July 1, 2015, in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images) Getty Images

    Thank goodness Haris Vuckic’s brother follows his career over the web.

  12. Cavani to sit two games including World Cup qualifier for post-Jara red card

    Jul 28, 2015, 8:43 PM EDT

    SANTIAGO, CHILE - JUNE 24:  Edinson Cavani of Uruguay (L) argues with Gonzalo Jara of Chile (NOT IN FRAME) during the 2015 Copa America Chile quarter final match between Chile and Uruguay at Nacional Stadium on June 24, 2015 in Santiago, Chile. (Photo by Gabriel Rossi/LatinContent/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Cavani will miss Uruguay’s first CONMEBOL qualifier for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Bolivia will benefit.

  13. Mob Museum in Vegas to open FIFA exhibit in September

    Jul 28, 2015, 7:16 PM EDT

    ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - JUNE 03: A policeman stands in front of the FIFA headquarters on June 3, 2015 in Zurich, Switzerland. Joseph S. Blatter resigned as president of FIFA. The 79-year-old Swiss official, FIFA president for 17 years said a special congress would be called to elect a successor. (Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Something tell us the exhibit won’t bring in the same sort of interest as the actual wall from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, but it does fit the bill of organized crime.

  14. MLS All Star Game preview: Forecasting the day when the idea is clearly ridiculous

    Jul 28, 2015, 6:11 PM EDT

    COMMERCE CITY, CO - JULY 28:  (L-R) MLS All-Star Graham Zusi of the Sporting Kansas City, Waylon Francis of the Columbus Crew and DaMarcus Beasley of the Houston Dynamo work out during training ahead of the MLS All-Star Game against the Tottenham Hotspur at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on July 28, 2015 in Commerce City, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Graham Zusi; Waylon Francis; DaMarcus Beasley Getty Images

    Here’s hoping MLS makes the idea of this contest laughable in the next decade, if not sooner. Like tomorrow.

  15. Mexico post-Herrera: Few answers, many questions as El Tri moves forward

    Jul 28, 2015, 5:39 PM EDT

    The president of the Mexican Football Federation Decio de Maria Serrano  announces the dismissal of Mexico's national football team coach Miguel Herrera during a press conference on July 28, 2015 in Mexico City.  Mexico's coach Miguel Herrera was sacked on Tuesday following allegations of an assault against a television journalist, just two days after guiding them to their seventh Gold Cup trophy in the United States.  AFP PHOTO/ Yuri CORTEZ        (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Who takes over the ship, one in which the majority of the hands reportedly liked playing for Herrera?

  16. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Everton

    Jul 28, 2015, 4:27 PM EDT

    Everton badge

    Will they hold onto Stones and Coleman? If so, expect Everton to be in the Europa League discussion and to make a healthy bid for both Cups.

  17. Official: Miguel Herrera fired by Mexico days after Gold Cup win, alleged attack on journalist

    Jul 28, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    150728-Herrera Getty Images

    The nation has now changed men’s national team managers 15 times since 2000, and only two of those changes were caretaker moves.

  18. Done deals: Vidal to Bayern Munich, Luis leaves Chelsea for Atletico Madrid, Crespo to Aston Villa

    Jul 28, 2015, 1:59 PM EDT

    Here’s a look at some of the top deals from another busy day across Europe.

Featured video

Analyzing PL clubs in the transfer window