Well that holidays are upon us and as a Real Salt Lake fan I thought it might be fun to put together a list of my RSL wishes in form of a list based on the 12 days of Christmas.
12 – 12 Home Wins, for all the success RSL has had at Rio Tinto Stadium since moving there in late 2008, including the undefeated home season in 2010, the team has never managed to win 12 home matches in a single season. We know that RSL is a tough team to beat at home and with the LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders, and San Jose Earthquakes all coming to Rio Tinto twice in 2013, winning 12 matches at home would be a huge challenge, but this is a wish list.
11 – 11 Healthy Starters, no year in RSL history has seen the team unable to field their first choice starting XI less than 2012, when they only played in 4 matches and just over 100 minutes across all competitions. In fact our top choice starting XI played less than one hour of MLS action in 2012. RSL has made some moves to get younger in the off season and hopefully that will allow us to get more minutes from our top guys as we move forward.
10 – A real #10, several guys have worn the number with RSL, Robbie Findley, Medhi Ballouchy, and Clint Mathis. Howerver, I am talking about more than a jersey number I am talking about a traditional number 10 player, the guy who creates the chances for others as well as for himself. Javier Morales is as close to a true #10 as RSL has had, but with his status for 2013 still up in the air could a change be in the makings for next season?
9 – Someone to fill the big #9 shoes, We know that there will never be another player to wear the number 9 for Real Salt Lake, and only two players ever wore that number for the team. The number first belonged to now RSL head coach Jason Kreis, and then briefly to Fabian Espindola. When you think about the two phases of RSL perhaps no two players made bigger impacts over their careers. Jason brought experience and leadership to the new franchise, and then moved on to provide a vision and mentality as a head coach that have set the bar very high, while Fabi raised the bar in another way. Fabi showed the effort that sets the standard for RSL players, his dedication to play with passion, energy and to fight for everything on the pitch made him a huge fan favorite and a player that opposing fans and players hate. Now RSL will need to find someone to fill the big shoes and expectations of the two guys to have worn that number for RSL.
8 – 8 more + goal differential, RSL has a +11 for goal differential in 2012, not a bad number but a far cry from the +25 that the 2010 squad put up. It is perhaps one of the numbers that holds a ton of importance for me, as it measures both the effectiveness of your team on defense and offense. No team with a positive goal differential missed the playoffs, while only one with a negative made it (Vancouver with a -6), of the 9 other playoff teams 5 other than RSL had a +11 or better. I think some of the injuries on the defense probably hurt RSL’s overall number in 2012, in 2013 it will be about replacing the 17 goals scored in 2012 from players that are no longer with the team.
7 – 7 Matches without a loss, MLS is a season of streaks and for RSL 2012 really was lack luster when it came to steaks, we had 3 streaks of 3 straight wins, and two streaks of 3 straight losses. Our longest unbeaten stretch was 5 to end the season (3 wins and two draws), we need to do better. The longest unbeaten streak in MLS in 2012, was the 12 match run at the end of the season by Sporting KC.
6 – 6 more sellout matches, RSL had a great year for home attendance in 2012, our average was a very respectable 19,087 (of a possible 20,125 at most matches). Consider that we are the smallest market in the league, yet only 7 teams has a better home attendance and RSL out drew the New York Red Bulls with big name DP’s and in the largest market in the league. Still we need to get those numbers even higher, we have heard over and over again from players and even head coach Jason Kreis how important the home crowds are to the team. Starting our home season with heated rival Colorado should let us get our number of MLS sellout matches up from 7 to 13 for 2013.
5 – 5 more goal scorers, RSL did score 46 goals in 2012 but the total number of players to score (10) was the lowest total for RSL in the last 5 seasons. A big part of that is that RSL clearly has a leading scorer that they look to in Alvaro Saborio, but as we saw at the end of the season and in big matches, when teams key on him there were too few others who stepped up to score goals for RSL. With the departure of Fabi and others it will be time for some others to step up and that means guys who are a bit “selfish” and taking shots when they have them instead of looking for the perfect situation or shot.
4 – 4 fewer losses, despite setting a record for most wins in franchise history at 17 last year, RSL lost 11 matches each of the last two seasons. RSL had just 6 draws last year, only one team in MLS had fewer draws than RSL. I think one of the keys to 2013 will be finding a way to reduce the losses and earn some more draws, reducing our losses by 4 is a really good way to get some more points.
3 – 3 strikers, RSL’s roster is now down to 1 striker, Alvaro Saborio, clearly RSL knows they must bolster the position as we have seen 4 guys depart the RSL family this off-season (Fabian Espindola, Paulo Jr., Emiliano Bonfigli, and Justin Braun). I expect that RSL will look to pick up two experienced guys and probably a draft pick or two at the position, I have to believe that we will need at least 3 guys to join forces with Sabo for the 2013 season.
2 – 2 more goals?, It was interesting to see that despite all the success RSL had this year that it was the lack of two goals (against CS Herediano and Seattle) that were the focus of MLS’s review of the RSL season. Hard to find fault, even RSL GM Garth Lagerwey said the inability to win the big matches at home is an issue.
1 – 1 piece of silverware, 2009 was a long time ago and since then RSL has had to settle for the Rocky Mountain Cup as the only trophy the team has won, granted we have won it for 5 straight years but I want more. With no Champions League action, RSL must focus on the 3 pieces of silverware that are available; MLS Cup being the top prize, the Supporters’ Shield would be my second choice, and then there is the US Open Cup. RSL need to get one of these in their trophy case in 2013.
There you go, a holiday themed post to enjoy this holiday season.
That’s How I See It.