Well anyone who didn’t see this coming, simply wasn’t paying attention or had their head buried in the sand, but after the 3rd straight season with 15 wins (only 3 teams in MLS history have done this) and no trophies to show for it, the time for change was at hand.
While it might seem as simple as the inability to score goals in the biggest of matches, when Alvaro Saborio would often be double or tripled teamed in coverage, the issues are larger than that. To a large extent Major League Soccer wants complete parity; they don’t want any one team being too good or too bad. Of course we know that is only partial true and one has only to look at how the league deals with allocation money to see what I mean. The worst teams in MLS, the ones who don’t make the playoffs get the larger portion of allocation money from the main pool of funds (the mysterious murky vault at MLS HQ). This seems perfectly in line with a salary cap league who wants parity, but the waters get a bit muddier when you consider the extra allocation money given to teams who make it into the CONCACAF Champions League, and even more money if they advance to the knockout rounds.
This rewarding of the successful seems counter to the parity ideals of MLS, but it is their strong desire to find a way to establish MLS as a respectable league regionally by winning the CCL. Something no MLS team has been able to do yet, the closest a team has come was the RSL run in 2010/11 version of the tournament when RSL made it to the finals. Often MLS teams find themselves facing opponents with team rosters much deeper than MLS’s and payrolls often 4-5 times the MLS salary cap or more. For Real Salt Lake making the playoffs in 2012 but not advancing to the knockout rounds of the CCL, and not qualifying for the next edition of the tournament means that allocation money wasn’t going to come from MLS’s vault.
So a couple of weeks ago when I was at RSL practice, I noticed something very distinctive about how the players were split into groups. The more experienced/veteran players were in one group and the other was made up of most of your newer/younger players. Then on Wednesday at the Reserve match I got to see a lineup for RSL that was very young in comparison to our normal starting lineup which features 7 players 30 years old or older:
- Kyle Reynish – GK – 28
- Carlos Salcedo – DF – 19
- Kwame Watson-Siriboe – DF – 25
- Chris Schuler – DF – 25
- Kenny Mansally – DF – 23
- Enzo Martinez – MF – 22
- Yordany Alvarez – MF – 27
- Sebastian Velasquez – MF – 21
- David Viana – MF – 20
- Emiliano Bonfigli – FW – 24
- Justin Braun – FW – 25
At the 30 minute mark, Nico Muniz (MF – 19) came in at midfield, while Enzo went to defense as Kwame left the match (he is still recovering form injury). This left me once again thinking about what RSL might look like in 2015. Of course I also have to remember a couple of others who while they weren’t involved in the reserve match are 25 or under, like Luis Gil (MF – 18), Will Johnson (MF – 25), Tony Beltran (DF – 24), Paulo Jr (FW – 23), and Lalo Fernandez (GK – 19).
A couple of others just miss my 25 year old mark, Jonny Steele (MF – 26), Fabian Espindola (FW – 27), but could play a role in the future as well.
OK time for some of the official stuff, first off let’s go with the highlight video of the match, which you can check out on the RSL website.
Here are some pictures from the match:
So I have to be honest I am very bummed that I had to leave after the first half of the reserve match between RSL and Houston this afternoon, but the day job had to be dealt with. Still there were some very interesting things from the first half worth taking notice of, first up is that it was the official debut of David Viana who signed with the team last month on the last day of MLS roster moves. He started out playing on the left side of the midfield and I thought his partnership with both Justin Braun and Kenny Mansally who were also focused on the left side of the pitch was very good. He showed some good quality on the ball and was able to make some very nice passes, he seems have a great vision for the game and a very accurate shot. He scored RSL’s second goal of the match, and a great shot from just outside the top of the area.
In his first official match with Real Salt Lake David Viana takes a shot from distance and scores his first goal for RSL.