2020 Season Preview: Real Salt Lake

Freddy Juarez took over from Mike Petke and led Real Salt Lake to the playoffs... now that he has the full-time job his first big task will be replacing the best goalkeeper in MLS history, Nick Rimando. The Wall of the Wasatch retired in the offseason and left a massive hole in his stead.

Other than that, not much has changed in Utah other than the changing of young Venezuelan wingers. MLS legend Kyle Beckerman is back, while there's plenty of young players that could take a leap into stardom in 2020.

2019 Finish

  • MLS Reg. Season: 53 points (16W-13L-5D), 3rd in West / 6th overall
  • MLS Cup Playoffs: Eliminated in Western Conf. Semifinal (vs. Seattle Sounders)
  • U.S. Open Cup: Eliminated in 4th Round (vs. LAFC)
  • Leagues Cup: Eliminated in QFs (vs. Tigres UANL)

Star players

  • Albert Rusnak — The 25-year-old has yet to have a truly breakout season in MLS, despite scoring 27 goals over three seasons. Is 2020 the year he becomes an All-Star caliber player?
  • Damir Kreilach — Almost 31, Kreilach will be looking to stave off any slippage in his game after two strong seasons with RSL.
  • Corey Baird — Baird will be looking to rebound from a slight letdown in his sophomore season. The 24-year-old is looking to hit double digits in goals for the first time in his career.

Extratime Analysis: Real Salt Lake

Key acquisitions and departures

  • IN: Jeizon Ramirez — Brought in to replace Savarino on the wing, the 18-year-old has plenty of potential.
  • IN: Zac MacMath — One of the three options to replace Rimando, MacMath hasn't been a regular starter in MLS since 2016.
  • OUT: Nick Rimando — Rimando's leadership will be missed in a locker room that is headed by a first-time MLS head coach.
  • OUT: Jefferson Savarino — While Ramirez is in place to replace him, Savarino was a bit farther along in his development than the teenager.
  • OUT: Brooks Lennon — After losing his starting spot in defense to Donny Toia, the former Homegrown was shipped to Atlanta.

Projected Starting XI

2020 Roster

  • Goalkeepers (3): Zach MacMath, David Ochoa, Andrew Putna
  • Defenders (8): Justen Glad, Aaron Herrera, Erik Holt, Alvin Jones, Ashtone Morgan, Nedum Onuoha, Marcelo Silva, Donny Toia
  • Midfielders (11): Luis Arriaga, Kyle Beckerman, Nick Besler, Maikel Chang, Everton Luiz, Damir Kreilach, Justin Meram, Luke Mulholland, Justin Portillo, Pablo Ruiz, Albert Rusnak
  • Forwards (9): Corey Baird, Chris Garcia, Milan Iloski, Sam Johnson, Douglas Martinez, Jeizon Ramirez, Giuseppe Rossi, Tate Schmitt, Julian Vazquez

Armchair Analyst: Team strengths and weaknesses

  • Strength: RSL’s backline and midfield have remained almost entirely intact over the winter as they brought back every key contributor from a group that made a living by being compact, limiting mistakes and not getting caught out on transition opportunities. A “first do no harm” approach is a smart one for a team that doesn’t, on paper, have the same kind of high-end firepower as the league’s heavy hitters.
  • Weakness: They don’t have the same kind of high-end firepower as the league’s heavy hitters. Carlos Vela scored 34 goals last year; RSL, as a team, scored 46. With the departures of Jefferson Savarino, Bofo Saucedo and Joao Plata, only 35 of those return.

Predictions

  • Ben Baer: 9th in West
  • Marcelo Balboa (Univision): 12th in West
  • Calen Carr: 11th in West
  • Charlie Davies: 11th in West
  • Matt Doyle: 8th in West
  • Kristian Jack (TSN): 10th in West
  • Frederic Lord (TVA Sports): 9th in West
Series: