It is time to start a new season of MLS action and for Real Salt Lake it is about delivering on the pitch, Mike Petke has had almost a full season to adjust the roster and tactics of the team and now we need to see that the run at the end of last season wasn’t a fluke.
So, what is that expectation? For me it remains the same each regular season, 15 wins and 50 points. If you make that happen you will make the playoffs. If we had hit that last season we would have ended at the 4th seed in the playoffs, making the playoffs has to be the goal of the regular season, doesn’t it? How do we get there?
Better at home, only one team that made the playoffs in the West last season did it without double digits wins at home (Vancouver). So, can RSL get 11 wins at home? One thing they will need to do is score more goals, while a +10 goal differential may seem good at home with 26 goals scored and 16 allowed, PDX and SEA both had a home +20, Houston had a crazy +26 at home. So to pick up an additional two wins at home, RSL will need to find a way to score more, 7 teams in the West scored more home goals than RSL. The reality is that we failed to take advantage of the elevation at home, we didn’t push other teams to deal with the elevation and it came back to haunt us, I expect that the team’s fitness from day one will be much better in 2018 than what we saw last year.
Lose fewer matches, so while picking up two more wins at home would be huge we must reduce our losses. 15 times RSL failed to get a single point from a match, each team that made the playoffs in the West had fewer losses, with Seattle and Sporting KC keeping their losses in the single digits with 9 losses. If RSL can drop the number of losses by 4, so win two more at home and simply lose two fewer on the road, not only will we make the playoffs, but we will likely host a playoff match.
The late breaking news of the day is that RSL has waived Yura, this frees up cap room and a DP spot and the reality is that we still need a goal scorer. I know a lot of fans love the work ethic of Luis Silva, but I don’t see us making the playoffs if he is our starting forward. At some point I expect we will see Alfredo Ortuño up top for RSL but now with a DP slot free and some cap room, the team can hope first that someone picks up Yura and we get off the hook for his salary, I have to believe we will go find a proven goal scorer.
Goals win games is a proven but 2017 was our very worst defensive season since 2005 with 55 goals allowed, so while scoring will be important the defensive side of the game will have to improve and RSL made some big moves for the backline this offseason. The mix of Shawn Barry, Adam Henley bringing some international experience to the roster, combined with youth and continued development of Danilo Acosta and Aaron Herrera (who has impressed me with what limited footage we have the preseason). I do expect the goals allowed to drop by a larger margin than I expect our goals scored to increase, if we can get that goals allowed number back into the mid 40’s I expect the change from losses to wins and draws will follow.
For all the changes off the pitch this season and they have been impressive, the team will eventually have to be judged based on their performance on the pitch, and the last three seasons have been far from impressive. The fans have huge confidence in Mike Petke to turn things around based on how 2017 ended, but again the proof will be in the standings. The West is going to once again be a bloodbath, there are too many good teams and too many teams that got better during the off-season. Can RSL make the playoffs this year? Of course they can but they have to be more consistent from the start of the season, the league has come too far for teams to “fake it, until they make it”. I am going to go out on a big limb, if we get a new top level goal scorer during or before the summer transfer window, we end up at 15-9-10 and that will get us into the playoffs.
That’s How I See It!