Real Salt Lake core faces uncertain future following abrupt playoff exit

CARSON, Calif.—With Real Salt Lake’s season ending abruptly Wednesday night in a 3-1 loss to the LA Galaxy in the 2016 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs Knockout Round, their focus began to shift from the moment to important steps for next year.

“There’s a lot of areas that we need to improve on, starting with myself, and we’ll address those,” said head coach Jeff Cassar after the game.

The RSL core of Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando, Javier Morales, and Jamison Olave have been together for a long time, including the club's MLS Cup title run in 2009, but at a combined age of 142, and with MLS going through a two-team expansion draft this offseason on top of the usual player movement, it might be harder than ever to keep the band together.

“Listen, that’s a discussion for not today,” Cassar said. “All of those players have a lot of soccer left in them and they’re going to contribute to our club. Very thankful they’re a part of our roster.”

For Beckerman, who has been with Real Salt Lake since 2007, this season indicated progress, as they once again qualified for the playoffs after finishing ninth in the Western Conference last season. He also spoke about driving that further next season.

“I think we took a step forward this year,” said Beckerman, “After taking so many steps backward last year, we did better this year. We’d like to get back to where we were, but it’s going to take some time. We really did a lot of changes last year. If we can keep making progress forward then hopefully next year we’ll go one better and keep building.”

It’s worth noting that although Olave notched an MLS career-low 17 appearances this season, Beckerman, Rimando, and Morales maintained career averages. With Yura Movsisyan getting an offseason to recover alongside the emergence of Juan Manuel "Burrito" Martinez and Joao Plata, the promise shown by RSL earlier this year might resolve into continued success.

“I thought we had a good chance [against LA] being the underdog,” Beckerman said. “Just wasn’t to be. We’ll see if we can get better next year.”