Send us a message

Interested in being a part of the team? Get in touch with us today.
Jul 232013

images Know Your MLS Teams: Real Salt Lake


Carefree wherever we may be

‘cause we are the famous SLC


Founded: 2004

Pedigree: 2009 MLS Cup Champions, Second Place in the 2010 CONCACAF Champions League

Current Record: 20-11-5, 37 Points (First Place in the Western Conference.)

Supporters: The Loyalists, Rogue Cavaliers Brigade, Salt City United, Section 26, La Barra Real, Union de Real, The Royal Pride, and The Royal Army.

Rivals: Colorado Rapids (Rocky Mountain Cup,) and the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Coach: Jason Kreis

Key Returning Players: GK Nick Rimando, DEF Tony Beltran, DEF Nat Borchers, MID Kyle Beckerman (Captain,) MID Javier Morales, MID Ned Grabavoy, MID Luis Gill, and FWD Alvaro Saborio.

Key Additions: DEF/MID Lovel Palmer (Portland Timbers,) DEF/MID Brandon McDonald (D.C. United,) FWD Robbie Findley (Unattached,) FWD Joao Plata (Toronto F.C.) and FWD Olmes Garcia (Deportes Quindio-Colombia.)

Key Departures: DEF Jamison Olave (New York Red Bulls,) MID Will Johnson (Portland Timbers,) MID Jonny Steele (New York Red Bulls,) FWD Justin Braun (Toronto F.C.) and FWD Fabian Espindola (New York Red Bulls.)


I actually had planned on writing a synopsis of Real Salt Lake towards the end of the season, as I thought it would be a good ramp up article for the MLS playoffs.  Being an East Coaster with an early job makes it difficult to stay up very late and watch West Coast matches. Plus, as I previously stated, I knew this team was very good and thought it be good to release this article closer to playoffs. But while watching this week’s match between Real Salt Lake and F.C. Dallas, I was reading a recent letter that Major League Soccer head office had sent to the supporters of Real Salt Lake, criticizing their fans. As I am not a fan of

Without going into the minute details of the report (You can find it here,) basically Major League Soccer is threatening to censor the fans by removing their stadium credentials and to not allow singing and chanting “You Suck Asshole” and other foul language. While I think that fans should always be a little cautious with their language (there are kids around and you shouldn’t be allowed to act like too much of an idiot,) I think that this is an over-dramatization of a small problem (plus how many kids already know these words?) Furthermore, it colors Real Salt Lake as renegades and their fans as a bunch of thugs. In reality, the supporters of Real Salt Lake are some of the most passionate, knowledgeable supporters in this league. There is a reason why the U.S. Men’s National Team has played two games at Rio Tinto stadium in the last two months. Plus, from all accounts, the team is a model organization that has set themselves up this team for a deep playoff run this season. This league is finally starting to gain a foothold in this country, and castigating fans for saying a word that most people already know is not good for the image of the league or the sport.

Now back to the team.

What is so shocking about Real Salt Lake’s play this season is that this team lost so many key pieces from last season’s squad and yet is still one of the best squads in the league. In losing Jamison Olave, Fabian Espindala, Jonny Steele, and Will Johnson due to trades and transfers the club lost a combined 14 goals, 13 assists, and 7293 matches (or about 81 matches.) Replacing that level of production is extremely difficult and even moreso in the highly competitive Western Conference. But what RSL has done for so long is be able to develop young players, and place seasoned veterans in positions that help them reach their peak value.

You see young players like Olmes Garcia, Luis Gill, and Joao Plata receive substantial playing time and thrive in a strategy that encourages creativity. But there are also currently 8 players on the Real Salt Lake squad that have five years or more of Major League Soccer experience. This depth has really shown in their recent 11 game unbeaten streak, where the club has been without Nick RImando, Alvaro Saborio, Tony Beltran, and Kyle Beckerman. The inter-changeable parts on this team make it the most difficult squad to plan for and the most dangerous.

With a team that is constantly changing parts due to salary reasons, there is a solid veteran core that coach Jason Kreis relies on. The teams that have been successful in MLS have played with one another for multiple seasons, which helps set the locker room and develop a belief system and mindset.  Behind the pipes, RSL has one of the greatest goalkeepers in Major League Soccer history (and in my opinion American Soccer) in Nick Rimando. Having had the opportunity to watch him at a very young age with D.C. United, you could always tell that he was going to be a special goalkeeper. I think having played on such veteran-laden squads early on his career helped him gain his confidence. He is an incredibly strong goalkeeper, despite only being 5’10”.  He is only the second goalkeeper in MLS history with 100 shutouts. He also has the second highest number of wins and saves, behind Kevin Hartman. At 34, he is in the prime of his career for a goalkeeper.  With the second lowest Goals Against Average in MLS with .89 it is evident that he is showing no signs of slowing down.

On defense, the club has redoubled their efforts from last season by current allowing the least amount of goals in MLS with 18. While the duo of Nate Borchers and Tony Beltran continue their yearly quality production, I have been highly impressed with the work of Chris Shuler. He has come back quite well after last year’s injury-shortened season, and has responded very well to his increased playing time after the team traded Olave last season. Despite the work of Shuler and Chris Winger, I think that the trade for Brandon McDonald makes sense. They have not received as much production from their substitutes on defense and adding a proven veteran defender will only help during playoff time. He can be kind of jerk, but he is no prima donna. He can take the tough hit and give it back on attack as well.

While their defense has made a few adjustments, their midfield is still playing the same explosive, creative style that has helped them win the MLS Cup and make numerous playoff appearances. While Kyle Beckerman is the captain, Javier Morales is the linchpin to their entire offense. He does what every good midfield general should do, he makes the other players around him better. Almost all of his passes are precise, he is able to draw the defense up and get them out of formation, and is damn accurate with his shots.

In the match against F.C. Dallas, Morales was able to take apart a very strong defense simply by opening the field up for two goals. In 16 matches this season, Morales has scored 5 goals on 13 shots on goal, including 3 game winning goals, and has 7 assists. He is one of the best Designated Players in Major League Soccer history, and at 33 still has a few years left of value for Real Salt Lake.

Beyond Morales, this team has a midfield group that is probably the deepest in all of Major League Soccer. Beckerman is excellent on crosses and is master distributor from the center of midfield. Yordany Alvarez has finally come into his own as a defensive midfielder, and is able to hold off counter-attacks from the opposition enough so that the RSL Defense can set up. I also really like Sebastian Velasquez, who plays the role of super-sub very well and showed in the June 20th match that he has a wicked step-over.

There is also of course Luis Gill, the U.S. Men’s National Team player who has been seen as one of America’s next great exports. Unlike in previous seasons, he seems to much more comfortable taking on defenders and is better able to read crosses on the outside. The thing that he still needs to work on his last touch. In the Dallas match he had some really good crosses tossed to him on the right side that he just was not able to trap. He seems like he has been around forever, having already played in 69 games over 4 seasons for Salt Lake. With Gill, any criticism should carry the caveat that he is only 19 years old. He still has plenty of time to iron out any technical problems that he might have.

The player that has stepped up this season is Ned Grabavoy. Grabavoy has always been a very good passing midfielder, but this year seems to have made some strong improvements on his defense. Watching him against F.C. Dallas, you could see that he is able to better read his opponent on a 1 versus 1. The goal that he scored in 79th minute showed that he is up to the task of picking up the slack while other players are off on international duty.

Up front, RSL sports a fearsome group of forwards led by Alvaro Saborio and Robbie Findley. It feels like Saborio has almost had a down season, yet if you look at his statistics it does not show it. He has missed two months of the season due to injury and national team duty for Costa Rica, but has still scored 4 goals in 8 matches. A healthy Saborio makes this team better because it opens up opportunities for Robbie Findley. Findley came back to RSL a player that never really got a shot with Nottingham Forrest, and who seems to be on the outside looking in with the United States National Team. He has taken the opportunity to play regularly with Real Salt Lake and ran with it. Watching him in the June 1st match against the San Jose Earthquakes, I was impressed with how when he would be isolated by the San Jose defense, and he would slow down the pace of the match and make a crystal clear pass to either Olmert Garcia or Joao Plata. He is still also able to make a brilliant goal out of nothing.

Salt Lake also has one of the best young strikers in Olnes Garcia. In 13 matches, he has 5 goals and 4 assists. Beyond the stats though, what he brings is energy. In the aforementioned Grabavoy goal, Grabavoy was set up a blistering run and cross by Garcia, who had just come into the match 15 seconds (!) earlier

Beyond the chants and the smoke bombs, this is a truly remarkable club. They have an incredibly stout defense, one of the best goalkeepers in MLS history, and a very deep contingent of midfielders and forwards. They have shown throughout this season that they can put away the minnows, stand toe to toe with the league’s best, and conquer old demons, winning their first ever matches in Texas (last week against F.C. Dallas,) and in Canada (against Toronto F.C.) This is the strongest, most seasoned team in Major League Soccer and should be the odds-on favorite to win the MLS Cup. All while their fans are calling the other team’s players assholes.

Beer of Choice: Trappistes Rochefort #10, Rochefort Brewery

Having watched many Real Salt Lake matches this season, I have found that the best type of beer is a beer that has a variety of tastes and flavors, and it has to be something that you can enjoy for ninety minutes. Although there are many great beers from Utah and Salt Lake City, Trappistes Rochefort #10  takes the cake (or the pint.) I actually first tried this beer at an amazing Belgian bar in Washington D.C. called Granville Moore’s. It has a bit of a fruity taste when you first try it, but the deeper you get into the bottle the more it tastes like an Ale. I became reacquainted with it last Saturday while watching Real Salt Lake defeat F.C. Dallas, securing their first ever win in Texas. Real Salt Lake is a complete squad with very few blemishes. The same can be said for Trappistes Rochefort #10.




Sean Maslin

Writer for Global Football Today and Blatter's Blotter. Lifetime D.C. United, Newcastle United, and Washington Warthog fan. Can be reached at @SeanMaslin on twitter or at

 Leave a Reply



Refresh Image


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>