Real Salt Lake
2007 Record: 6-15-9 (6th in West)
Coach: Jason Kreis (2nd Year)
Key Players: Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman, Robbie Findley
Key Pickups: Tony Beltran (Drafted 3rd Overall), Dema Kovalenko (from RBNY)
Key Losses: Alecko Eskandarian (to Chivas USA), Eddie Pope (Ret.)
2008 Outlook: Poor
Oh Lord, RSL has suffered enough, hasn’t it? First the terrible name, then the terrible team.
In its three year history, RSL has been extremely short on highlights. In fact, most of RSL’s most familiar faces from the beginning of last year are now gone: Adu, Cunningham, Pope, Eskandarian, etc. Kreis is basically the only guy still hanging around, but that’s because he has to stay. He is the manager after all. Sometimes, I bet even he wishes he could make his escape.
If I were an optimistic man, there are some things going on at RSL I could point to and opine things were looking up. For instance, Robbie Findley is a fine young striker (of course he is, Lalas traded him, remember… I guess that is why the Galaxy had to go out and pay for Ruiz), Nick Rimando had the second best save percentage last year, and Kyle Beckerman, Andy Williams, Nathan Sturgis and the newly-acquired Dema Kovalenko can all play decent midfield. Beckerman in particular should step into a leadership role with this young team and produce well.
But just like their future stadium, RSL is still a team under construction that sometimes looks less than halfway built. Kyle Brown and Fabian Espindola will need to contribute more this season offensively and the defense (God help them) has to give Rimando a break every now and then. Sadly, the loss of Pope bodes poorly for Rimando. Maybe occasionally they can work youngster Chris Seitz in this year as he has looked promising in youth national team games and Rimando is bound to need a break from the constant barrage of shots hurtling in on goal. Either that or they should trade Seitz. He is simply too talented to languish on the bench.
The one way RSL could improve the quickest is by enhancing their mental toughness. Some would scoff at such a suggestion, but it is often mental toughness and consistency of focus that prevents teams from losing games by one goal (RSL was 5-11 in one goal games last year). Sometimes “wanting it more than the other team” does matter, and all too often, RSL seemed to be indifferent last year towards the end of the game (the 14 goals they ceded in games’ final 15 minutes is abhorrent).
RSL should improve this season, but their defensive woes will likely prevent them from qualifying for the playoffs. By the time the stadium is finished at the end of this year though, I bet RSL will also look like a much more finished product.
Enjoy watching Salt Lake in person this season. Check out the availability of Real Salt Lake tickets