- Real Salt Lake
- Western Conference
- Home: Rio Tinto Stadium
- MLS CUP: 2009
Through the years, we've always been able to count on Real Salt Lake running out a diamond midfield formation. But, after a third-straight offseason of change, RSL looks to have some new tricks up their sleeve for 2015. Second-year head coach Jeff Cassar has been experimenting with a 4-3-3 in preseason, and could use the formation extensively this year. Regardless of how he lines his team up, Cassar will be looking to keep at least one thing intact: The club's seven-year postseason streak.
RSL's traditional rival is, was and always will be Rocky Mountain Cup foes Colorado Rapids. But with the Denver-based club going through some lean years recently, the locker room's main focus has turned westward to the LA Galaxy. One of RSL or LA has qualified for five of the last six MLS Cups, with the Claret-and-Cobalt topping the Galaxy to bring home the title in 2009. All that success has bred a fair bit of contempt, and you can bet Salt Lake will not be feeling so warm and sunny about LA after the Galaxy beat them down in the 2014 playoffs.
Real Salt Lake started the Jeff Cassar era brightly, with the club going unbeaten in their first 12 games of 2014 before the loss of stars Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando to World Cup duty and Alvaro Saborio to injury brought on a bit of a midseason swoon. Still, the team rebounded, remaining in Supporters' Shield contention until late in the year and ending the season with the fourth-most points in the league. They were exposed in the playoffs, however, tying LA 0-0 at home in the West semis first leg before being blown out in the return fixture 5-0.
- M Sebastian Saucedo (Homegrown)
- D Jamison Olave (trade from New York Red Bulls)
- D Boyd Okwuonu (SuperDraft)
- M Wellington "Pecka" Paeckart (free)
- D Phanuel Kavita (Homegrown)
- D Demar Phillips (free)
- D Aaron Maund (re-signed)
- D Elias Vasquez (free)
- D Rich Balchan (option declined)
- F Benji Lopez (option declined)
- M Cole Grossman (out of contract)
- D Nat Borchers (traded to Portland)
- M Ned Grabavoy (Expansion Draft to NYCFC)
- D Chris Wingert (Expansion Draft to NYCFC)
- F Robbie Findley (Re-Entry Stage 1 Draft)
- M Sebastian Velasquez (traded to NYCFC)
- D Carlos Salcedo (transfer to Guadalajara)
After losing longtime GM Garth Lagerwey, forward Robbie Findley, midfielder Ned Grabavoy and defenders Nat Borchers and Chris Wingert this offseason, 2015 will present a relatively new look for RSL. The club will be looking for talented youngster Luis Gil to step up in the midfield, and — with Joao Plata set to miss the start of the season due to injury — will need some production from DP Sebastian Jaime, who was relatively invisible after joining the club last summer. The return of Jamison Olave should keep the back line strong, something RSL will need if it wants achieve its goal of returning to the top of the West.
"I think that they've got a strong foundation, a very strong foundation. Their youth academy has been very successful, and it's just now starting to push players into the first team. I think there's a lot more to come through that pipeline."
"They're a team in transition. They've lost some key leaders. I'm sure they have answers but it'll be interesting to see how they adjust without guys that were reliable and played a lot of minutes for them."
PROJECTED LINEUP: 4-3-3
Rimando; Phillips-Olave-Schuler-Beltran; Beckerman-Gil-Morales; Jaime-Saborio-Garcia
Complete roster [RealSaltLake.com]
They may have lost Nat Borchers and Chris Wingert, but don't expect RSL's defense to struggle. Tony Beltran and Demar Phillips are affordable at ($7m) and Chris Schuler ($8.5m) could be an elite fantasy player if he stays healthy. In the midfield and up top, Luis Gil ($7.5m) figures to get his chance sans Ned Grabavoy, while Javier Morales ($10.5m) and Alvaro Saborio ($9.5m) are expensive but productive.
Armchair Analyst's Best Case Scenario
With Olave in for Borchers and Gil starting in place of Grabavoy, RSL will be more athletic than last year. And that's significant, because the athletic disparity between them and some of the other top teams was often unmissable.
They're also older than last year, and it's hard to imagine that Olave, Beckerman, Saborio, Morales and Rimando will all extend their prime another season. Somebody has to drop off, right?
Maybe not. Best case is Plata (when he returns from injury), Gil, Mulholland, Jaime and maybe even Saucedo pick up increasingly large shares of responsibility and keep RSL in among the Western Conference elite.