SANDY, Utah – For the first time in quite a while, the identity of Real Salt Lake may not be built around Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales.
Morales announced his departure from RSL via Twitter on Thursday, ending 10 years of service to the club. But the offseason priority for Salt Lake is an identity that can prosper for a decade to come.
“This offseason is very important in the sense that we have a clear identity as to who we are and what we are,” general manager Craig Waibel said. “As we make decisions, they will be steering to what we want to become.”
Salt Lake’s finish to the season seemed like that of an older, tired team, as they slumped through their final eight games without a win.
“We just didn't have it,” Rimando said. “Other teams had that quality and that fight that we didn't have, which is disappointing because I felt like we had a team to move on and create some noise in the playoffs.”
The Utah club is still searching for a new version of the collective personality that made RSL so successful for a seven-year stretch from 2008 to 2014.
“We’re still trying to find that elite style and identity,” Beckerman said. “It’s taken a little time to get it.”
RSL isn't chasing that “The Team is the Star” vision of years past that powered runs to the 2009 and 2013 MLS Cup finals, instead seeking a new evolution.
“From a roster perspective, we need to continue to get younger and get back to what made this club what it was,” Waibel said. “Get a good core of players that can be here for quite some time.”
Waibel emphasized the younger players RSL currently have under contract or are working to sign to long-term deals. Jordan Allen has been re-signed. Luke Mulholland will be around for multiple years. Yura Movsisyan recently signed a long-term deal and Joao Plata was re-upped for multiple seasons last year. Positive negotiations are ongoing with center backs Justen Glad and Aaron Maund.
“We have made a very consistent effort over the last 12 months to hang onto and have the services of many of the players we feel can contribute for quite some time,” Waibel said. “These are the steps to lay the foundation, then go out and get the complementary pieces and the special ones.”
Where Rimando and Beckerman fit is a looming question this offseason. Rumors have already begun to swirl about the veteran duo and Waibel did not rule out the possibility of blockbuster transactions in the months ahead.
“We have taken a lot of good steps,” he said. “There are a lot more courageous steps we need to take as an organization. When we commit to those courageous steps, there are going to be some growing pains involved like there were this year.”
Waibel believes RSL can continue competing for honors in the crowded Western Conference while overhauling the makeup and identity of the squad.
“The chemistry is good and it's getting better,” he said. “As we continue to make it a younger and very optimistic environment to play in and grow in, we'll be in a good spot.”