After finishing in ninth place in the Western Conference a year ago, Real Salt Lake clinched a playoff spot this past year, sealing a return to the postseason. The playoff path did not last long, though, as they were eliminated in the knockout round.
The biggest news this offseason for Real Salt Lake is the departure of Javier Morales, a midfielder that has been the heart of this team for many years. Coach Jeff Cassar, who recently extended his contract with the club, will look to find someone to replace the talented Morales as the team’s primary playmaker and attacking leader.
Meanwhile, Cassar’s staff has seen several changes. They club parted ways with assistant coach Richie Williams, while promoting Freddy Juarez to assistant coach with the first team. The new head coach of the RSL Monarchs is former Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke, adding a highly-touted coach to lead the club’s younger stars.
As we march into 2017, here’s a look on how Real Salt Lake’s roster is taking shape for the upcoming season.
Jose Hernandez, Matt Van Oekel
Javier Morales, Jamison Olave, Boyd Okwuonu, Phanuel Kavita, John Stertzer, Emery Welshman, Olmes Garcia, Pedro Baez, Deon Sandoval, Chris Wingert, Juan Manuel Martinez
Round 1: 13th overall
Round 2: 35th overall
Round 3: 48th overall, 57th overall
Round 4: 79th overall
Real Salt Lake has decided to stick with head coach Jeff Cassar at least until the end of the 2017 season.
The departure of Javier Morales has put a big hole in the middle of the field for Cassar, who will need to find a No.1o to replace the veteran. Rumors have been circulating about RSL coming to terms with a young playmaker, Albert Rusnak, who can fit right in and help bring a creative presence to the club’s attack. With Kyle Beckerman growing older, it will be key for Real Salt Lake to find some young players to play in the midfield.
Another need for Real Salt Lake is defensive reinforcements. Veterans Jamison Olave and Chris Wingert have announced their departures from the club, putting more pressure on Justen Glad in the center of the defense. The return of Chris Schuler and Aaron Maund will also be key for the club as they move on from the two veterans.
Real Salt Lake could also certainly use another attacker because of the departure of Juan Manuel “Burrito” Martinez.
Real Salt Lake has a quality roster that can easily become contenders in the Western Conference. The problem is they still have some spots to fill, with the big one being the attacking midfield position. If Cassar can acquire a skillful No. 10, Real Salt Lake has the potential to be a dangerous team in the 2017 campaign.
The club has a great deal of youth on the squad especially after signing Jose Hernandez, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, to a homegrown contract. Glad took several steps in 2016, and it will be interesting to see how far the centerback can lead RSL in 2017.
On the attacking end, Joao Plata has been one of the most successful players under Cassar and it will be important for him to continue that success. Yura Movsisyan will need to lead from the front, helping ease issues from the key departures on the attacking end.
If RSL can put several new pieces in place, they have the talent to contend again in the West.