Sandy, UT (Sports Network) - Real Salt Lake begins the 2013 season unfamiliar
Known for being one of the most stable franchises in Major League Soccer, RSL
starts the new campaign without a trio of familiar faces who have helped
contribute mightily to the success of the club over the past few seasons.
Jamison Olave was named the 2010 MLS Defender of the Year, and has partnered
Nat Borchers in the middle of the Salt Lake back line to give the club one of
the better defensive units in MLS the past four years.
But the veteran was traded to Red Bull New York, along with forward Fabian
Espindola, in the offseason in exchange for allocation money.
Espindola finished 2012 with nine goals and seven assists, and the move was
met with plenty of negativity around Rio Tinto Stadium.
"I don't read a lot of the stuff about our team, but I know there was a lot of
negativity," said RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy. "I don't see it. I think the
team has done a good job of getting some allocation money, trading for good
players and keeping a core group of guys around.
"We will be ready to compete for an MLS Cup this season."
Grabavoy is certainly optimistic considering that RSL enters the season with
more question marks than they have in a while.
One of the players who was acquired with that allocation money is forward
Robbie Findley, who enjoyed a successful three-year stint with the Claret and
Cobalt from 2007-10.
Findley spent the past few seasons playing in England, but he returns to Salt
Lake having scored 29 goals in 96 appearances with the club his first time
"We're very pleased to bring Robbie back to Salt Lake," Real Salt Lake general
manager Garth Lagerwey said. "He's a talented player and was nothing but a
class individual during his first stint here. We feel like his speed will add
a dimension to our attack that's been missing since his departure."
Findley will team up with RSL's leading scorer from last season, Alvaro
Saborio, who tallied 17 goals.
The two formed an effective partnership in 2010 as Findley managed five goals
and four assists playing alongside Saborio despite missing nearly two months
while away on international duty.
Speedy winger Joao Plata was also added from Toronto FC to give the attack
Sturdy midfielder Will Johnson was another player who left Salt Lake for
allocation money, and his defensive presence will be missed in midfield after
he started 26 games last season.
The midfield did get a boost last year when playmaker Javier Morales returned
from a horrific ankle injury suffered in 2011 to register a team-high nine
assists in 29 games, but he is likely to miss the first few games of the
season after undergoing knee surgery earlier this month.
Lovel Palmer's arrival from Portland will help with the departure of Olave,
while Chris Schuler's role is expected to be expanded, but the back line will
take time to come together.
2012 IN REVIEW: Salt Lake struggled with periods of inconsistency last season
and failed to continue the dominant home form that had become a trademark of
the club. Four losses at Rio Tinto last season were the most for the club
since 2007, but they still managed to finish in second place in the tough
Western Conference. However, RSL failed to advance to the conference final
after being bounced by Seattle Sounders FC, 1-0, on aggregate.
ACQUISITIONS: Cole Grossman (M), Aaron Maund (M), Lovel Palmer (M), Robbie
Findley (F), Joao Plata (F).
LOSSES: Kyle Reynish (GK), Jonny Steele (M), Paulo Jr. (F), Emiliano
Bonfigli (F), Justin Braun (F), Jamison Olave (D), Fabian Espindola (F), Will
OUTLOOK: How well Salt Lake is able to replace Olave will be a big factor
considering the team conceded the third-fewest goals in MLS last season.
Olave's departure, along with Espindola and Johnson, leaves a few holes in the
RSL lineup that head coach Jason Kreis must fill. Findley is a proven scorer
and should work nicely with Saborio, but it might be a bigger challenge for
the club to continue its strong defensive record. Salt Lake should once again
be battling near the top of the West, and a return to dominant form at home
will be a big step toward achieving that goal with Salt Lake winning only 11
of 17 games at Rio Tinto last term.
The Sports Network