Real Salt Lake finished their 2016 campaign 6th in the west, suffered an early exit in the knockout round of MLS Cup, and ended with a 12-12-10 record. RSL made two stand out signings in 2016. The loan of forward Yura Movsisyan and the acquisition of Sunny Stephen. Real Sale Lake did however get back to the playoffs after missing in 2015, snapping their record of 7 consecutive post season appearances.
The most notable offseason departures from RSL are Javi Morales and Juan Manuel Martinez. RSL decided not to re-invest in Morales, as the aging veteran had seen a dip in minutes and productivity due to injuries. Martinez, on the other hand, had his contract mutually terminated due to personal reasons. With two of Real Salt Lake’s most creative players gone, the front office made some head turning transactions. They signed Albert Rusnák from FC Groningen, a 22 year old Attacking Midfielder and a Slovakian International. They also shored up their defense with the signing of David Horst from Houston.
With head coach Cassar implementing the 4-4-3 formation of 2015, the squad was much more comfortable and tactically sound. However RSL lacked the ability to finish in the second half of the season. With Morales and Martinez gone, RSL will depend on the recent influx of new blood to help revive the attack. Luis Silva, Sebastian Saucedo and Albert Rusnák should all help contribute in some way, as they can each play multiple positions.
Defensively, RSL should be better than they were last year. Both picks from the MLS draft were focused on defenders and the acquisition of the veteran CB David Horst. All of these changes mean that RSL will have more depth than they’ve had in the past. Additionally, Nick Rimando remains one of MLS’ best keepers, so expect a high output from him as long as he is between the sticks.
Expected Real Salt Lake line-up at time of writing
The one uncertainty in this lineup will be who will line up at the right winger spot. I can see Saucedo, Jordan Allen, or Silva all being in the running. There should also be rotation with the CB spot with Aaron Maund, Justen Glad, Chris Schuler, and Horst all seeing time.
Real Salt Lake returns 9 out of 11 starters this season and will hopefully push for a deeper playoff run. With Joao Plata on most set pieces, he would be the RSL player I would put in my squad. As I mentioned before, there will be heavy rotation with the defense and possibly midfield. Keep an eye on the pricing and production of Movsisyan and Rusnák throughout the season, as they are both very streaky performers.