RSL 2020 Season Preview

With some star player turnover, will RSL be able to compete well in a stacked Western Conference?


Photo Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

After losing key pieces and the front office doing what they can to replace them, the question will be if the new additions can make a difference to Real Salt Lake.

A notable departure is longtime RSL and MLS stalwart goalkeeper, Nick Rimando. After retiring following the 2019 season, head coach Fredy Juarez has an interesting task at hand trying to decide between a younger goalkeeper to be the new starter in either David Ochoa or Andrew Putna, or go with a more experienced player in new signing, Zac MacMath. In reality, the coaching staff will probably opt to experiment between the pipes from game to game. 

One section of the team that took a big hit was having wingers  Jefferson Savarino, Joao Plata and Sebastian Saucedo all depart during this offseason. All three players have at some point been big contributors in one way or another to the attack over the past few seasons, but combined only scored 11 goals and notched nine assists all together (not stats you want to see from your “star” forwards).

The additions of 18-year-old Jeizon Ramirez, MLS journeyman Justin Meram and homegrown Milan Iloski may prove to be good replacements, but RSL doesn’t need “good.” They need players who are consistent goalscorers, or in some way responsible for goals being scored. Whether the RSL attack will be dangerous enough to threaten other teams throughout the season will depend on Juarez and how he utilizes the tools he has.

The defense and the midfield will most likely be virtually the same as last year, only adding a few players which will build the depth of the team. Salt Lake’s defense has finally started to look consistent and solid for the first time since the Wingert-Borchers-Olave-Beltran era, and if they can continue to develop together, it won’t be easy for attacking teams to get through them. The midfield will be a good core for the team and with Damir Kreilach, Everton Luiz, Albert Rusnák and (hopefully more of an off-field leader/locker room personality) Kyle Beckerman all staying with the team, they’ll provide for the attack well and be able to get back to help defense too.

Predicted lineup: MacMath, Toia, Glad, Onuoha, Herrera, Luiz, Kreilach, Rusnák, Meram, Rossi, Baird.

Assuming Rossi does officially sign a contract, he’ll probably start above Sam Johnson, at least until he’s at full health. Once Johnson is up to fitness, though, there will be plenty of competition in the number nine role. It looks right now that Baird will have a starting spot somewhere, as he can play really anywhere on the front line. Ramirez could definitely push for starting minutes too, but it may be a few weeks until he proves himself to Juarez. Like mentioned before, the goalkeeper position is definitely a toss-up.

RSL has been projected by most MLS analysts to finish below the playoff line, but as a team that’s used to flying under the radar, they may surprise some.