Welcome to another edition of "Discuss," in which MLSsoccer.com editors debate the topics of the moment in MLS.
Today, Senior Editor Ben Couch, Editor-in-Chief Simon Borg, Contributing Editor Alicia Rodriguez, and VP of Content Greg Lalas weigh in on red-hot Real Salt Lake, the only remaining undefeated team in MLS.
Are RSL legit MLS Cup contenders? Discuss!
COUCH: You can count on it (unless...)
Considering the offseason, the question with this team was never the offense. Sure, it takes a healthy Joao Plata and Burrito Martinez magic, but with those two plusYura v2.0 and Javi Mo? #CMONSON None of y’all were really worried. And now that new addition Stephen Sunday is roving box-to-box, with the Kyle Beckerman robot holding and talent quickly developing along the backline (SEE: Maund, Aaron; SEE ALSO: Glad, Justen), this squad will put points on the Supporters’ Shield standings all season. If you know, Plata stays– [Flees RSL fan pitchforks]
BORG: Well, can they stay healthy?
Yes … but only if they can keep that starting XI intact — especially those front three — à la the 2015 New York Red Bulls, who went on to have the best record in MLS. Sure, there are still questions about RSL's central defense (similar to what was said about RBNY in 2015), but that central midfield pairing of Sunny/Beckerman — arguably the best in MLS — will help significantly limit any exposure.
RODRIGUEZ: Question marks remain
RSL’s status as contenders comes down to the performance over the course of the season of their central defenders. If Glad, Maund, Jamison Olave and whoever the team brings in to play in the back can withstand the 34-game season and go into the playoffs with a head of steam, then RSL can contend now. But that’s asking a lot, particularly of Maund and Glad. Maybe Glad is the next Matt Miazga, and will continually rise to the challenge. But if the center backs turn out to be more “adequate” than “exceptional,” I don’t see them contending for titles this year.
LALAS: The best defense is a good offense
Absolutely [they can contend]. And not just because everyone is a contender in MLS at this point. The RSL braintrust has put together arguably the most balanced squad in the league, blending experienced previous MLS Cup winners (Beckerman, Nick Rimando, Morales, etc.) with a few exciting whippersnappers (Plata, Jordan Allen, Glad, etc.). I’m not sold yet on their central defense, but their two big-name attackers allow me to ignore that for now. Burrito Martinez is one of the most underrated creative players in the league right now, and Movsisyan is, simply put, an assassin lying in wait. The combo gives RSL a one-two punch good enough to scare any defense in MLS and carry them very far come the playoffs.