Real expectations for Real Salt Lake

You see what I did there?  Anyhow we are entering into a season filled with expectations as is every fan of every team, but for RSL we are coming off 3 seasons of disappointment and yes making the playoffs and washing out in the first round is a disappointment.  So for me the expectations are high as always, I expect at least 15 wins and 50 points during the regular season and at least one win & home playoff match for MLS action, and a quarterfinal appearance in the US Open Cup.  Those are minimums for a season to be considered successful in my mind, and last year we failed, the year before we failed and even in 2014 we failed.

This will be the fourth year with Jeff Cassar in charge, and unless we can at least meet those goals I will be honest it probably should be his last. I would give him the full season to reach those goals but one has to wonder if getting Mike Petke into the RSL fold wasn’t a move to have a MLS ready head coach replacement in the wings?  There have been excuses in past years, new coach, new formation, etc but this is payoff time, there are no more excuses it is time to deliver or move on.

So the big talk this off season has been about the youth movement at RSL but the reality is that RSL is still in the top 5 of oldest teams in MLS. The youth is mostly focused on the offensive side with Lennon, Allen, Plata, Rusnak, Hernandez and Saucedo. On the defensive side of the ball we do have Glad and Acosta but we also have Beckerman, Rimando, Wingert, Phillips, Horst who are all over 30, with Beltran and Schuler at 29. From watching the preseason the fact of that youth and speed on the offensive side of the ball has been interesting to watch and could pay off big in the regular season.  The 4-3-3 is about getting the ball moving quickly and RSL is capable of doing that, but we have to make sure we don’t get caught with our defenders too far forward as the speed on the backline isn’t overwhelming.

We have to expect the big names, the established guys to deliver, that means Yura and Joao need to score big goals, we need all that experience on the backline to help Nick keep clean sheets.  Then we need this youth movement to step up and force their way onto the pitch and the stat sheet, guys like Jordan Allen, Brooks Lennon and Albert Rusnak need to put up numbers this year and guys like Saucedo, Hernandez and Holness need to push for spots not just on the bench but in the starting 11.

The West is never going to be easy, but if we aren’t going to build a team that can compete for the top spot then what is the point?  Seattle are defending MLS Cup champs but we saw last year that winning a Cup is no promise of future success. LA is in the midst of a huge transition, San Jose is building a better team as is Vancouver. Portland will look to rebound and FC Dallas will be looking to continue building on last year, Sporting KC is mud, will always be mud and can’t be anything but mud. The Rapids played ugly but effective soccer last year and will likely do more of the same, Houston played ugly and ineffective soccer last year but will likely be much better this year and while Minnesota United are the new kids, with no DPs signed yet they could make a huge splash later in the season. So can RSL make the top 6, of course they can with an average season they should be in the top 6, can they make the top 4? Yes they can, but it will require those 50 points (which would have been top 4 in the West last year).  I expect it will probably be 58-60 points that will win the West unless some teams really melt down, and I don’t see that happening.

This is Jeff’s team it is his year to prove that he was the right choice and not just an easy choice, he has the staff and roster to compete for a top spot in the West and now it is about delivering as a coach.  It isn’t all on him but after the meltdowns at the end of last year the focus will be intense on a good start and no major droughts this season. MLS is a fickle league and anything can happen but MLS fans are even more fickle and anything less than seeing the expected results can be met with scorn and more complaining than anyone would expect.

I think this RSL team has a lot of talent but much of it remains unproven, it is hard to determine too much from the preseason but it sure looks like some of the younger guys are ready to grab their spot and not let go of it and that could be a very good thing for RSL that has a lot of depth but can use some more consistency in securing results.  If I had to pick how the RSL season will go, I see us ending 14-10-10 and finishing in 4th place in the West.

That’s How I See It

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