Is the RSL signing of Yura Movsisyan the start of RSL 3.0?

Yura - MLS Cup 2009

So for the last couple of years we have heard folks talking about MLS 3.0, the era of big TV deals, new forms of Allocation money, and even more big name DPs.  RSL’s owner has talked about it as a part of the reason why some of the front office changes over the last couple of years have been made, so RSL can compete in this new MLS, despite being a small market team.

Last year we saw RSL attract Juan Manuel “Burrito” Martinez, a move that saw him pay off his own contract so he could find a new team to play with, and he chose to come to Salt Lake City.  We saw the potential of what he can do in his limited minutes at the end of the season last year, I expect the best is yet to come.  It was a sign of things to come, or so it appears.

Listening to Yura talk to the media today, he mentioned over and over again that he had told his agent that he wanted to come back to MLS, and back to RSL for the last two years.  Now a player having a very specific place he wants to play can really put both his current club and his target in a rough spot as deals are never easy to complete. Between transfer fees, salary, MLS salary cap issues, it is a complicated thing but Yura’s agent Patrick McCabe (@GlobalPremMgmt) and RSL GM Criag Waibel did a lot of work over the last couple of months to make this deal happen.  

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2016 Real Salt Lake Roster Review Part 3

So we have come to the final part of our RSL roster review as the team heads into the 2016 season, in part 1 we looked at keepers and forwards, in part 2 we looked at the midfield.  Now we will look at the defenders, an area where RSL struggled with injuries, new players and of course our adjustment to a new formation. 2015 was not a good year for the RSL defense, the 48 goals allowed was the 3rd worst total in RSL history and the highest number since the 2006 season.

Defenders – This position has the most questions heading into 2016, here are the current players on the roster

  • Tony Beltran – The only thing close to a consistent player on the back line in 2015, Tony actually had one of his best seasons and continues to distinguish himself as one of the best outside backs in MLS. Tony started the most matches(31) and played the most minutes(2774) of any RSL player in 2015, his play was one of the highlights of the 2015 season.  I think we can expect more from Tony in 2016 as he continues to be more and more of a leader on the pitch and the on the backline.
  • Jamison Olave – Most of us were surprised when RSL brought Olave back, but after losing Nat Borchers the team needed a proven CB and Olave is that.  Unfortunately 2015 was a mixed bag with Jamison, he had moments where we got those highlight reel defensive saves and bursts of near superhuman speed, but we also got 3 red cards and with a few injuries.  With just 22 matches played in 2015, the 2nd lowest total of his MLS career, we can only hope that after signing a new contract in the off season that we will get a bit more action on the pitch and fewer red cards from Olave in 2016.

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2016 Real Salt Lake roster review Part 2

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So in my RSL roster review part 1 we focused on forwards and keepers, which happen to be where the team has some great depth. Now we will take a look at the midfield where there are a lot more questions but also a lot of talent.

Midfield – with two of the games top players in their positions (Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales) you would think there would be no questions about the RSL midfield, but I have questions, lots of them.

  • Javier Morales – There are few in MLS that are as good with the ball at their feet as Javi, his vision and passing are sublime as all RSL opponents know only too well.  This however has lead to him being one of the most fouled players in MLS over the last several years and at age 36 it has taken it’s toll. In 2015 he played in just 24 matches, the lowest full season total in him MLS career (minus the injury year of 2011), and while he maintains a great level of fitness the league is a physical one.  If we can keep Javi healthy for the 2016 campaign I think every RSL fan would rejoice, but we will for sure take what we can get because RSL is simply a much better team with him than without him.
  • Kyle Beckerman – The face of the franchise, and there simply is no other player in MLS, I would rather have in the d-mid position than Kyle.  His leadership, energy, skill, and passion simply make him one of a kind and we can never thank the Colorado Rapids enough for gifting him to us.  His offensive production was off in 2015, 1 goal & 2 assists, down from 3 & 3 in 2014 and 4 & 6 in 2013. I expect a big portion of this was the new formation which left him often spending more time on the defensive side of things.  Kyle is a leader on and off the field, he sets the tone and his leadership with a lot of roster changes will be needed in the long season ahead.

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Real Salt Lake roster review Part 1 – 1/14/2016

Nick Rimando

So we are 40 days from RSL’s first action of the year, their Feb 24th Champions League match at Tigres. So with the first 2 rounds of the MLS draft done, lets take an updated look at the RSL roster as it sits:

Goalkeeper – The position RSL has the best depth has to be keeper

  • Nick Rimando – RSL keeps one of the best keepers in MLS history in goal and should the defense in front of him improve from last year we should see another great year from Nick.
  • Jeff Attinella – I expect there are probably a few teams who would be happy to have Jeff as their number one keeper, so RSL is lucky to have him as our number two. When called on, Jeff has provided a very solid replacement for Nick and with the season starting so soon, I expect Jeff will see plenty of action in 2016.
  • Lalo Fernandez – The academy project spent most of 2015 with the Monarchs with 18 appearances, I expect those minutes will probably be similar in 2016 as he continues to progress as a keeper.  Holding onto him as his development continues will be a challenge for RSL.

I think RSL probably has the best or one of the top 2 or 3 keeper combos in all of MLS, this is an area of real strength heading into 2016.

Forwards – To say that the pressure is on RSL to get more productivity out of their forwards has to be the biggest understatement of the 2016 preseason.

  • Juan Manuel “Burrito” Martinez – While he was only with the club for a few months in 2015, I think all fans are excited by what we believe he will be able to provide. Clearly a player to watch in 2016 in MLS not just RSL.
  • Joao Plata – Injuries ruined what should have been a huge year for Joao, who exploded to new levels in 2014 with 13 goals.  He had just 4 goals in 19 appearances, now with more time to gain fitness and sharpness we should expect a return to his 2014 style and productivity.

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Real Salt Lake has a lot of questions heading into 2016 season

Can RSL get back to the top in 2016?

The first MLS event of the new year is the MLS Draft, that will take place on Jan 14th in Baltimore and the questions for RSL heading is simple:

How to rebound from a disappointing 2015? The worst year for the team since 2007 left fans wondering what happened. In a single season RSL went from a +15 goal differential and finishing 3rd in the West and 4th place overall in MLS to a -10 and a 9th place finish in the West, 16th overall.  Offense was down as RSL scored just 38 goals, our defense gave up 48 goals our highest number since 2006.  Missing the playoff for the first time since the move to Rio Tinto in 2008, what was the longest streak in MLS.  Also gone was the 5 year streak of 15 wins and 50 points, what I consider the new gold standard for MLS regular season success.  The one positive (for most) in the 2015 season was qualifying for the knockout rounds of the CONCACAF Champions League tournament, which provides RSL with a bit more allocation money and pressure to try to once again make a run at being the first MLS team to win it all.

To recover from that disappointing season will require RSL to become dominant at home again, a 7-4-6 record at home is simply unacceptable. It will have to start with offense, just 22 goals scored by RSL at home which is down 11 from the 2014 season.  RSL seems to have addressed this issue with the soon to be announced signing of Yura Movsisyan back to RSL. Also boosting the RSL offense should be a healthy Joao Plata who saw his 2015 minutes drop by over 500 from the 2014 season.  Another boost should come from Juan Manuel “Burrito” Martinez having a full preseason with RSL, we saw the glimpses of what he could bring to the table, now we need him to deliver a full portion.

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Real Salt Lake start the 2nd half of season looking forward, not backwards

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It has been a very long time since RSL sat with a losing record at the midway point of the season, but at 5-6-6 that is exactly where we are.  Now some will make excuses as to why we are here, off season losses of Borchers, Wingert, Grabavoy, and others, or will point to the formation change and it taking time to figure out the 4-3-3, or injuries and national team call ups.  The harsh reality is we haven’t been good enough, often touted as one of the deepest teams in MLS, our first 11, our 18 man match day rosters, the 23 players with minutes and our coaching staff, simply haven’t been good enough.  That is hard for any of us to hear, it is hard to say (part of why there have been so few posts lately), but it is the truth and unless we are willing to admit there is a problem, we will never solve it.

I am not going to focus on the negative too much, but let me be clear this issue is on both sides of the ball, this issue is at home as well as on the road, and while you can never take anything away from the heart and passion that most of our players play with, the results haven’t followed.  At the midway point of the season we have allowed 20 goals, which if about the middle of the pack this season in MLS, 8 teams have allowed more and 10 teams have allowed fewer.  As a team that has the best keeper in MLS in Nick Rimando, you would think we would be better than middle of the pack, but injuries, suspensions and other issues have kept RSL from having any real consistency on their back line except Tony Beltran.

It is on offense that perhaps the most glaring issues have been for RSL in the first half of the season, just 15 goals scored and only 1 team in the league has scored fewer (Colorado). At the halfway point of the season RSL has 3 players who have scored more than a single goal, Javier Morales and Alvaro Saborio with 3 each and Luke Mulholland with 2. If you want to know why I am fully supportive of the idea of RSL breaking the bank to bring back Yura Movsisyian well, there you go. Now to be fair, Jaoa Plata our leading scorer from last year has just returned to action, but at the same time a healthy Sabo has simply under produced and failed to finish chances that in the past would have lead to goals.  Both Olmes Garcia and Sebastian Jamie scored their first goals last week, but both guys that RSL paid huge transfer fees for, and large salaries either have to deliver or we have to make changes.

Then there is the league leading 5 red cards, 2nd worst 37 yellow cards and while we are the 11th place team in fouls committed, we are the 2nd most fouled team.  Yeah something about these numbers really make me question the officiating in MLS, but that is for another day.   So Saturday night can RSL start the second half of the season on the right foot?

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Real Salt Lake will look to restart season vs Rapids, minus a few key players

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While the Rocky Mountain Cup was once the trophy for what was at one time one of the top rivalries in the league, years of dominance by Real Salt Lake, 7 of the last 8 years won by RSL, have made it less important to some fans (me included). This year the 3 matches with the Rapids will be huge, not because of the RMC, but rather for the 9 points that could make the difference of making the playoffs or not.  If you look at the Western Conference standings today, you will see that the Rapids are at the very bottom with just 13 points from 13 matches and just above them are RSL with 17 points from 14 matches. Neither side can be happy with these results, neither second year coach looks very comfortable with how the season is going.

A single win won’t put either side back into the playoff picture, but 3 points would at least get things moving in the right direction. With just 4 losses on the season the Rapids have fewer losses than RSL, but their two wins are also fewer than RSL. Both sides are coming off back to back losses and it isn’t the first time this season for both sides to have to deal with that.

Traditionally RSL has been one of the most solid defensive squads in MLS, but this year mistakes have cost matches, and 18 goals allowed the 1.29 GAA is one of the worst in team history (2008 we gave up 1.3 GAA) compared to 2010 season when we gave up just 20 goals all season. Life on the other side of the ball is just as troubling with just 13 goals scored in 14 matches and 6 times RSL being held without a goal. Our 0.93 goals scored per match is lower than any season average, even our 2005 season ended with a 0.94 average. So it is little wonder that many RSL fans are scratching their heads, we were told about this new more dynamic formation that would solve the woes of last years playoff performance against the Galaxy but as we near the halfway point of the MLS season, there is very little proof in the pudding.

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Real Salt Lake hope to rebound vs a familiar NYCFC side

Jason

Six players on the NYCFC roster have worn the Claret and Cobalt of Real Salt Lake in the past, and two of their assistant coaches are former RSL staff members and of course their head coach is Jason Kreis, who’s history with RSL is written on the wall of Rio Tinto Stadium as the only MLS player to have his number retired by a team. NYCFC is an expansion side that Real Salt Lake should beat with ease, but this hasn’t been a normal season for RSL so far, in fact very few things about the team make any sense this year.

A 3-3-5 record would be more than good enough to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, but in the West that record isn’t good enough. In fact even if RSL wins on Saturday vs NYCFC it wouldn’t move them into a playoff position unless they can win by at least 3 goals, something that is very unlikely given have only scored 3 goals once (that crazy match against Philly) and each of our 3 wins so far have been by a single goal.  However given our 4-1 loss last weekend at Montreal, the only team in the East below NYCFC in the standings, a win of any sort isn’t a sure thing.

There will likely be a welcome surprise to the RSL 18 man roster for this match, the return of Joao Plata a player who last year was perhaps as much of the heart and soul of this team as anyone else on the roster. However with Javier Morales still likely to be out as he recovers from his concussion and Jordan Allen off with the US U-20 team, our midfield will be a bit light if RSL sticks with their modified 4-1-3-2 formation.  I do think the combo of Sabo and Sandoval up top poses real problems for the NYCFC defense, their size and strength will force Jason Hernandez and Chris Wingert to likely have to stay back more on defense and close to keeper Josh Saunders in order to deal with them.  The RSL defense which looked oh so shaky last weekend will have their own hands full as NYCFC try to figure out what their offense is all about, you would think with names like David Villa, Patrick Mullins and Mix Diskerud that they would have things figured out, but when your leading scorer is Mehdi Ballouchy, well things probably aren’t going as planned.

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Disappointment, despair, whatever it is both RSL fans and players feel it heading into Galaxy match

RSL's Paulo Jr. makes a huge run at goal against the LA Galaxy.

I have heard from several sources that the players are as upset and in many case more upset than the fans at the way the season has started for Real Salt Lake, and who can blame them it hasn’t been pretty.

9 points from 8 matches isn’t how RSL usually starts a season, but for me the points are less important than the eyeball test, in which RSL simply hasn’t looked very good for a full match, heck for a half, or if we are being brutally honest for a 15 minute stretch.  Yes there have been passing combos that have inspired, saves that have made the highlight reel, but overall this has been simply ugly. It has been a very, very long time since I remember seeing RSL rated just #15 in the USA Today Sagarin ratings.

In recent RSL history, this is our worst start at 2-2-4, last season we were 3-0-3 after 8, 3-3-2 in 2013 and 5-3-0 in 2012.  For me the question on my mind is what happens in the next 2 matches?  I believed and still do that the key to making the playoffs and hitting that gold standard of 15 wins/50 points is to win you home matches and to get results against teams from the East.  4 points from these next two matches would put us at 14 points the same as 2013, but lagging behind our 20 points of last season or 19 points after 10 matches in 2012.  A pair of wins would put us at 16 points from 10 matches and that wouldn’t be a bad place to be.

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RSL faces a great opportunity vs San Jose

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So it has been a crazy week and perhaps no week is bigger in sports than this weekend with the big fight in Vegas, the Kentucky Derby, the NFL draft and of course RSL hosting the San Jose Earthquakes on Friday night.  So heading into the season I don’t believe that most people expected much of San Jose as Dominic Kinnear returned to take over the team and rebuild it into the title chasing franchise it used to be, RSL on the other hand had the same expectations as they have for the last several years, be competitive at the top of the West and battle with LA and Seattle for playoff positioning.  However as we enter the 8th match of the season neither side has been impressive and for RSL the lack of scoring after moving to the more offensive minded 4-3-3 has been a bit surprising.

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