As the Western Conference's lowest-scoring team in 2020, Real Salt Lake GM Elliot Fall didn't mince words on his offseason priorities: More goals.
RSL were in the bottom third in MLS in both expected goals (29.44) and big chances created (27), one of the key reasons they missed the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs.
“Our first focus this offseason is in the attacking third," Fall told media on a virtual press conference. "We feel that’s where we need to make the biggest stride and step forward.”
RSL announced their end of season contract decisions Monday, including declining the 2021 option for forward Giuseppe Rossi. The club had already parted ways with Sam Johnson before the end of the season. Johnson originally joined the club as a Designated Player. Both players failed to make an impact, while attackers Albert Rusnak and Corey Baird each took a step back in terms of productivity in 2020.
“Quite honestly, everywhere on the field we can be better next year," Fall said. "Our performance across the board wasn’t what we expected or what we needed from the team we believe we can be."
It's not all doom and gloom for RSL.
Their academy is one of the most respected around the league, producing first-teamers like Aaron Herrera and Justen Glad, US youth national team regulars now in Europe like Richie Ledezma and Sebastian Soto, and many more. They advanced in the playoffs in 2018 and 2019, with many players from those squads still featuring at the club.
“We do believe in our group, we believe there’s a lot of talent on this roster," Fall said. "Quite frankly, it’s quite similar to the roster that won rounds in the playoffs each of the last two years. We feel there’s a lot to build on but we need to make some changes.”
"Thank you so much for the support during this crazy year." pic.twitter.com/Jxmrgt254R— Real Salt Lake (@realsaltlake) November 30, 2020
The club are in a tricky situation.
Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen issued a statement in August announcing he will be seeking to sell Utah Soccer Holdings, which owns Real Salt Lake (MLS), Utah Royals SC (NWSL) and Real Monarchs (USL). Fall noted that'll have an impact on their plans.
“We aren’t likely to add significant discretionary spend until we have more clarity in the ownership front," Fall said. "That doesn’t mean we can’t get better. We have the resources within the budget we’re currently operating in.
“We need to continue to see how the ownership situation evolves," he added later in regards to their open DP spot. "Designated Players by definition involve discretionary spend. … If we have an ownership transition that happens, and we have an ownership group that wants to invest heavily in that spot… then we need to [be ready] to do that.”
Another key decision to be made this winter for RSL is whether or not club legend Kyle Beckerman will be back. The 38-year-old midfielder is out of contract and continues to be in talks with the club about what's next, whether he'll keep playing and if it'll be in Utah.
“I don’t know the timeline, truthfully," Fall said. "It’s a mutual decision. Kyle is a legend. Kyle is Real Salt Lake. We’ve had great conversations with Kyle, we want Kyle to be a part of this club for a long time to come. What capacity that is in … we have to continue to have that dialogue.”