Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Season in Review: Real Salt Lake

Record: 11-15-8, 41 pts, 9th Place Western Conference
Goals For: 38
Goals Against: 48

Team Leaders

Goals: Javier Morales - 8
Assists: Javier Morales - 12
Shutouts: Nick Rimando - 8
All-Stars: Tony Beltran, Nick Rimando

Year in Review

For the first time since 2007, Real Salt Lake failed to make the MLS postseason. With 8 losses in their final 12 matches, the perennial contenders fell below the red line and closed out the season with three straight losses during which they scored just one goal TOTAL. RSL's leading scorer from 2014, Joao Plata, never truly returned to the form he had before his injury and scored just 4 goals in 19 appearances. And while RSL remained ever dangerous on set pieces thanks to Javier Morales, the rest of the attack struggled mightily ranking 19th in goals out of 20 teams. Strikers Sebastián Jaime, Juan Manuel Martínez, Olmes García and Devon Sandoval combined to score just 12 goals, and all-time leading scorer Álvaro Saborío was traded away midseason to DC United for Luis Silva. Silva, who had 11 goals a year ago for DC United, had 0 goals and 0 assists in 530 minutes for RSL after the trade. Defensively, RSL struggled to overcome the offseason losses of veterans Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert and Ned Grabavoy, and then to add injury to insult, defender Chris Schuler was limited to just five games due to multiple injuries during the season. Despite all the issues, 2015 wasn't a total loss though. Youngsters Jordan Allen (20), Luis Gil (21), Justen Glad (18) and Elías Vásquez (23) all logged a good chunk of minutes, and despite their struggles in league play, Real Salt Lake still managed to advance to the quarterfinals of the Champions League. But ultimately, after a seven year run of postseason appearances including two MLS Cup appearances, 2015 feels like a failure.

What's Next?

Kyle Beckerman (33), Javier Morales (35), Jámison Olave (34), Demar Phillips (32) and Nick Rimando (36) don't have too many years left in them, but all five made at least 16 starts in 2015. While, some youngsters on the roster have begun to emerge as legitimate contributors, there is still a significant bridge to be gapped before torches can be passed. First and foremost, Real Salt Lake needs to address their attack. The lack of a big-time goal scorer hurt them down the stretch, and I'm not sure the answer is currently on their roster unless Plata bounces back in 2016. RSL has used all three of their designated player slots on Plata, Jaime and Martínez (who ironically are all strikers), and if all three are back next year, they MUST do better. Still, this team is better than their 9th place finish suggests, and now that they are equipped with a high draft pick, they should be able to turn things around relatively quickly.

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