Feb 26, 2013, 6:00 PM EST
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.
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.
Dec 27, 2014, 11:45 PM EST
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino is aware of the great challenges the Spurs will face against Manchester United at White Hart Lane.
Dec 27, 2014, 9:45 PM EST
Former Manchester United goalkeeper Tim Howard knows Sir Alex Ferguson’s presence can be felt at all times.
Dec 27, 2014, 8:59 PM EST
Brendan Rodgers likes the scoring capabilities of Raheem Sterling after the 20-year-old has managed to capture form recently.
Dec 27, 2014, 7:30 PM EST
Arsene Wenger: “He developed into a very good player, so you don’t need to convince me he is a good player.”
Dec 27, 2014, 7:00 PM EST
Watch this midseason review of Premier League 2014-15 action.
Dec 27, 2014, 6:04 PM EST
Ron Henry, a club legend of Tottenham Hotspur, has passed away at age 80.
Dec 27, 2014, 5:06 PM EST
Andres Iniesta calls Barcelona the ideal place for the in-form Neymar to develop his already proven skills.
Dec 27, 2014, 4:15 PM EST
Fernando Torres is set to ink a permanent deal with AC Milan, according to Chelsea’s website.
Dec 27, 2014, 3:36 PM EST
Preview of Newcastle vs. Everton on Sunday.
Dec 27, 2014, 3:10 PM EST
While the Hammers are enjoying one of their best ever starts in the Premier League, their owners are in desperate need of dollars.
Dec 27, 2014, 2:21 PM EST
Here’s how PST’s lead writer and editor sees things panning out.
Dec 27, 2014, 1:25 PM EST
It took 18 matches this season for a Premier League manager to get sacked. Are there more coming in the near future?
Dec 27, 2014, 12:32 PM EST
How and where to watch every PL game live and online during Week 19.
Dec 27, 2014, 11:55 AM EST
First meets fourth at St. Mary’s as Chelsea look to keep their lead at the top of the table.
Dec 27, 2014, 11:05 AM EST
The Premier League has seen 470 goals hit the back of the net so far, and we’ve narrowed it down to the top five.
Dec 27, 2014, 10:33 AM EST
Robbie Earle and Kyle Martino discuss why the title will end up at Stamford Bridge, and which team from Manchester will finish in second.
Dec 27, 2014, 10:00 AM EST
As we near the halfway point of the season, check out who has been the best player in the Premier League.
Dec 27, 2014, 9:05 AM EST
Spurs look to make it four straight wins but face a United side that looked dominant on Boxing Day.
Dec 27, 2014, 8:16 AM EST
The French striker was sent off for head-butting Nedum Onuoha, a decision his manager could not disagree with.
Dec 27, 2014, 7:32 AM EST
After 16 matches in charge, Neil Warnock becomes the first Premier League manager to get sacked this season.
- Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks: Southampton, Swansea, Manchester City 0
- With Warnock out, who is the next manager to go? 0
- WATCH: Premier League TV schedule – Week 19 1
- VIDEO: Premier League title is Chelsea’s to lose 0
- Neil Warnock sacked by Crystal Palace 0
- VIDEO: Meet your Premier League Team of the Year, at the season’s halfway mark 2