2012 Real Salt Lake Preview

Discussion in 'Thread Archive' started by The Richuation, Mar 9, 2012.

  1. The Richuation

    The Richuation Walk On

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    Goalkeepers

    Depth Chart: 1. Nick Rimando, 2. Kyle Reynish, 3. Eduardo Fernandez

    Strengths: Rimando has long been among the top keepers in the league, and has been rewarded with a rash of recent US national team call-ups as well. He’s a proven shot-stopper, and one of the best with the ball at his feet. Kyle Reynish is a quality backup who perhaps only lacks big game experience on his resume.

    Weaknesses: Third 'keeper Fernandez has all of the physical tools, but he’s inexperienced and may not be ready to step into the limelight yet if called upon. Fortunately, that’s a remote possibility.

    Wildcard: If Rimando is in the mix with the US team during qualifying, he may miss several league games either due to conflicts or needed rest. The team will discover if Reynish can continue the stellar backup role that he’s shown in the recent past.

    READ: 2012 Real Salt Lake Preview

    Defense

    Depth Chart: RB 1. Chris Wingert, 2. Terukazu Tanaka; CB 1. Nat Borchers - Jámison Olave, 2. Chris Schuler, 3. Leone Cruz; LB 1. Tony Beltran, 2. Diogo de Almeida

    Strengths: The starting backline is among the league’s best. Borchers and Olave provide a formidable duo in the center. Wingert has been a mainstay either at right or left back for several years, and Beltran seemed to elevate his game in 2011, giving the team a high-quality option on either side.

    Weaknesses: With Robbie Russell out of the picture, the team doesn’t have any proven depth at outside back should Wingert or Beltran miss any action in 2012.

    Wildcard: Schuler has played a solid role in the middle when called upon. He also saw some action at the left back spot, and did quite admirably as well. Can he help in that spot if needed again, or will another player emerge?

    SEE: Preseason Schedule and Results

    Midfield

    Depth Chart: LM 1. Will Johnson, 2. Jonny Steele, 3. Nico Muñiz; CM 1. Javier Morales - Kyle Beckerman, 2. Luis Gil, 3. Yordany Álvarez, 4. Sebastian Velasquez; RM 1. Ned Grabavoy, 2. Enzo Martinez

    Strengths: The starting unit is highly technical and has played together for several years. Add Gil into the mix, and there is a solid core. Álvarez also showed last season to be a capable backup to Beckerman, who could miss time again to US national team call-ups.

    Weaknesses: While the midfield goes about six players deep, the rest is a bit of an unknown. Velasquez and Martinez are talented draft picks, but may not be ready to contribute yet. Steele brings the most professional experience among the new recruits, but it’s unknown if he can make an impact at this level.

    Wildcard: Gil made his mark on the squad last season. If he builds on that and takes another step forward, that will bode well for RSL.

    READ: Real Salt Lake 2011 season statistics

    Forwards

    Depth Chart: 1. Álvaro Saborío - Fabián Espíndola, 2. Paulo Jr., 3. Cody Arnoux, 4. Emiliano Bonfigli

    Strengths: Saborío and Espíndola proved a successful partnership in 2011. The duo had 21 goals and five assists between them, and should be productive once again this season. Paulo Jr. looks to be ready to contribute after an injury kept him sidelined most of last season.

    Weaknesses: There isn’t a lot of proven professional capability among the reserve forwards. Paulo Jr. has contributed well in short spurts for RSL, but he needs to show that he can do that on a consistent basis over an entire season.

    Wildcard: Arnoux has had a series of injuries ever since turning professional. He was highly touted coming out of college, and if he can produce as some believe he’s capable, he could bolster an already potent forward line.

    Setting the Scene




    2011 was a season of highs and lows for Real Salt Lake. The highs all came at the front end of the year, as they made a high-profile run all the way to the CONCACAF Champions League finals before suffering a disappointing loss to Monterrey.

    RSL react to heartbreaking loss in CCL final



    Shortly after that, RSL began an agonizing, yet successful, 2011 season featuring numerous injuries and absences. Perhaps the most devastating was the broken ankle of midfielder Javier Morales in April that kept him out of the lineup until just before the end of the season.

    Although they made some noise in the first round of the playoffs by besting the higher-seeded Seattle Sounders, their dream of a trophy fell short as they were knocked out by ultimate MLS Cup champs LA Galaxy.

    For all of the quality that they have brought to the table over the past two seasons, the squad is focused on finally picking up some hardware for their efforts in 2012.

    BUY RSL TICKETS HERE

    In and Out
    IN: GK Eduardo “Lalo” Fernandez (Home Grown signing); M Enzo Martinez (SuperDraft/Generation Adidas/Univ. of North Carolina); M Sebastian Velasquez (SuperDraft/Spartanburg Methodist College); M Jonny Steele (Carolina RailHawks/NASL); D Leone Cruz (2011 SuperDraft selection by Seattle Sounders, acquired in exchange for rights to Supplemental Draft selection Andy Rose); D Diogo de Almeida (SuperDraft/SMU) D Terukazu Tanaka (Sagan Tosu/Japan); F Emiliano Bonfigli (Supplemental Draft)

    OUT: G Tim Melia (11/23: waived); M Collen Warner (11/23: expansion draft); D Robbie Russell (11/29: trade to D.C.); M Jean Alexandre (12/1: trade to San Jose); M Arturo Alvarez (12/5: Re-Entry Stage 1/Chivas USA); M Andy Williams (12/5: retired); D Nelson González (12/12: option declined); D Rauwshan McKenzie (12/12: option declined); M Blake Wagner (12/12: option declined)

    READ: 2012 Real Salt Lake Depth Chart



    Star Attraction: Javier Morales
    Javier Morales talks about his return from injury



    As his absence proved last year, he’s an essential ingredient to the success of Real Salt Lake. In his role as the team’s No. 10, he’s clearly the engine that makes a very talented squad go. While the team did well trying to make up for this deficit, it’s apparent that they weren’t at their best without him.

    The talented Argentine has that "wow" factor that few in the league can rival. His ability to create space and make exceptional plays, especially on set pieces, brings an extra dimension that can’t be replaced currently on this RSL roster.

    Unsung Hero: Ned Grabavoy
    It’s a bit hard to call many of the RSL starting XI unsung, but Grabavoy could fit the bill here. As a midfielder on a highly technical team, his skills on the ball are often underrated. He’s also developed as a strong two-way player since joining the Claret-and-Cobalt and his value in this role is often overlooked.

    Along with teammate Fabián Espíndola, he was an offseason priority for general manager Garth Lagerwey to lock up for multiple years. His importance will likely be highlighted this season following the retirement of Andy Williams.

    READ: Real Salt Lake eager to get regular season under way

    Ready for Primetime: Luis Gil
    Gil had a breakout year in 2011. He not only saw his debut with the first team, but saw action in 25 games, starting in 14 of them. Perhaps the highlight for him came on August 6 against the New York Red Bulls, when he scored his first career goal.

    The 18-year-old has been a fixture among the US youth national teams, and is poised to become a star in the league. Although head coach Jason Kreis refuses to put pressure on the youngster, there are big expectations for him in 2012. Gil is versatile and can play in a forward role, at the top of the diamond or on either side of the midfield.



    READ: RSL giving longtime core 18 more months for glory

    Storylines to Watch
    1. Can RSL stay relatively injury-free? The club missed many key components in many key games last season. They are likely to open the season without Álvaro Saborío (knee), central defender Nat Borchers (quad) and possibly Will Johnson (sports hernia).

    2. How strong will the depth be on this squad? The bottom half of the roster has had a lot of turnover. The team has brought in some new players, but because of cap limitations, had little money to spend. Have they managed to identify some diamonds in the rough?

    3. Will Rio Tinto once again become a fortress? Real Salt Lake lost 3 games in 17 outings at home last season after going nearly two full seasons without a loss. Still not a bad mark by any means, but Rio Tinto lost a bit of the intimidating edge that it once held. Can they return to the home field dominance that they once enjoyed?

    READ: RSL's injury woes continue causing concern for Kreis

    What He Said
    “Are we going to be able to out possess like we normally do? Are we going to be able to create chances? Are we going to defend well? I think those three things are our bread and butter.”

    – Real Salt Lake defender Nat Borchers (pictured right)

    SEE: 2012 Season Preview Archive

    If Everything Goes Right
    Real Salt Lake have proven to be one of the best in the league over the past few seasons. The starting XI is still mostly intact, and if they can stay healthy and get contributions from some new additions, they should retain that status.

    The team will be competing to get back into the CONCACAF knockout stages again next spring. However, the more immediate challenge for the squad will be to compete for Supporters' Shield, with the ultimate goal being a Dec. 1 date in MLS Cup. They appear to have the elements in place to do so, but can they put it all together?
     
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  2. The Richuation

    The Richuation Walk On

    Joined:
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