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Mar 152014


1278417 300x213 MLS Team Preview: Real Salt Lake

Photo Credit: Matt Gade/Deseret News

Record Last Season (W-D-L:) 16-8-10 (Lost to Sporting Kansas City in the 2013 MLS Cup)

Coach: Jeff Cassar (First Season)

Key Additions: DEF Ryan Neil (MLS SuperDraft)

Key Departures: DEF Brandon McDonald (Released,) MID Lovel Palmer (Chicago Fire,) MID Yordany Alvarez (Loan- Orlando City S.C.,) and MID Khari Stephenson (Released)

Key Player to Look Out For:  MID Sebastian Velasquez

Perhaps better known for his ridiculous hair styles, Velasquez is one of the best possession midfielders in all of Major League Soccer. Originally drafted out of Spartansburg Methodist Junior College in 2012, Velasquez has steadily rose up the depth chart at Real Salt Lake and became a regular starter at the end of last season. Although he has yet to score a goal during the regular season, he did score the goal against the Los Angeles Galaxy in last year’s MLS Playoffs. Expect coach Jeff Cassar to place an emphasis on getting Velasquez more involved in the RSL attack in 2014.


2013 could have been a much different year for Real Salt Lake. Had the club been able to convert one of their shots on goal against D.C. United in the 2013 U.S. Open Cup and had they been able to hold a lead against Sporting Kansas City in the 2013 MLS Cup, this team could have ended up with a double. Instead, due to a few unlucky bounces of the ball the club came up short in two competitions and are once again looking for their second club title (the club won the 2009 MLS Cup). But this time they will be doing it without coach Jason Kreis, who left in the off-season to take over the New York City F.C. team that will be starting play in 2015.

Part of what has made RSL such a successful franchise is that they very rarely make major changes to their roster or management. Rather than replacing Kreis with someone outside of the system, club management opted to name goalkeeper coach Jeff Cassar as their next manager. Cassar has worked as an assistant coach with RSL since 2007 and will essentially be working with the same personnel that Kreis had in 2013. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.

It seems like a fairly simple proposition: promoting a coach from Kreis’ staff and making very few adjustments in the off-season will yield the same results as 2013. There are a couple of problems with this line of thinking. First, is that this is a World Cup year and the spine of RSL will be leaving for Brazil for an extended period in June. Players like goalkeeper Nick Rimando (United States,) midfielder/captain Kyle Beckerman (United States,) and forward Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica) are all likely headed to Brazil and midfielder Luis Gil (United States) might be heading there as well. Rimando, Beckerman, Saborio, and Gil are all very important pieces to this RSL team and without them the club’s depth will be tested.

Whether or not the club’s younger players take the next step in development will also be worth watching. Players like Gil, Velasquez, defender Aaron Maund, defender Carlos Salcedo, and forward Joao Plata  have been touted by RSL and those around the league as some of the best young players that MLS has developed. With players like Beckerman, Saborio, Rimando, and midfielder Javier Morales all in their 30’s, RSL will need their younger players to start taking on leadership responsibilities with the club to make the inevitable transition much smoother.

Best Possible Outcome: With players like Gil and Velasquez making the next step to being All-Star-caliber MLS players, Real Salt Lake gets the monkey off of their back and wins the MLS Cup.

Worst Possible Outcome: Losing their star players for a month costs RSL valuable points and the club finishes fifth in the Western Conference. They are beaten by the Portland Timbers in the first round of the MLS Playoffs.


Sean Maslin

Writer for Global Football Today, Soccerly, D.C. Soccer, Soccer Without Limits, and Blatter's Blotter. Lifetime D.C. United, Newcastle United, and Washington Warthog fan. Can be reached at @SeanMaslin on twitter or at

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