Opening day

Rio_Tinto_Stadium_panorama

Today marks the beginning of another campaign.

RSL starts the season by playing against Los Angeles in Los Angeles. Neither team has made huge adjustments in the offseason (by huge, I’m looking at Toronto >.>) and both teams have historically been really close when matched up. I don’t have a prediction for this game and I don’t want to make one. There are a lot of variables coming into this game that could make things go either way for RSL.

Carlos Salcedo

With Schuler out nursing his foot, Carlos is likely to get the step up to start next to Borchers. Salcedo had a number of really good games last season, but also a few bad ones. I think we forgot that he was a rookie until Schuler came back at the end of the year and RSL suddenly had plugged the leak in the defense that had been persistent over the course of the season.

This year, Carlos has an opportunity that could make or break his position in the lineup. In the preseason, there was a worrying moment when he let Cubo Torres get in past Rimando after failing a bicycle kick to clear the ball out of the box. The thing is, I’ve seen him nail a bicycle kick 50, 60 yards down field and hit its target, but this time it whooshed by him and Chivas scored in a 1-1 draw that was the final game of the preseason. That could have been a simple clearance to the sidelines, but instead he tried to hit a home run and struck out (wait, am I mixing my sports metaphors?). Maybe that’s a rookie move, trying to be fancy rather than practical. And I get that. And he will learn. But against LA, when Robbie Keane can wipe the floor with his face, Salcedo is going to need to do better.

Jeff Cassar

I’m still nervous about the new head coaching position. I can’t help it. The more everyone says “we don’t want to shake things up too much” and “these guys can coach themselves” and other things like that, the more I feel like RSL is going to fail. There are always going to be changes with a new head coach. Those changes aren’t necessarily going to be a bad thing. If Jeff Cassar is going to be a great coach for Real Salt Lake, he needs to not be trying to be Jason Kreis. No one can be Jason Kreis (except Jason). Jeff Cassar needs to be the best Jeff Cassar he can be. Maybe that’s not changing the 4-4-2 Diamond, but so what if it is? Change needs to be allowed to happen, and I feel like the more Jeff and Garth (Lagerwey) talk about not making any changes, the more  I look at those “who’s going to be the best coach of 2014” polls and think Jeff’s name is going to be nowhere near that list.

Forwards

For all the forward depth, RSL has Devon Sandoval and Robbie Findley out this weekend (at least last I heard). That leaves the most likely pairing up top to be Sabo and Plata. I have no issue with Sabo starting today after playing for Costa Rica on Wednesday (unless he injured himself and did that thing that Sabo always does and doesn’t tell anyone about it until it’s a huge problem). But that leaves Benji Lopez and Olmes Garcia on the bench.

Olmes lit the pitch up like dynamite his first few games with RSL and then tapered off. He still gets passed defenders with his blazing speed, but then seems not to know what to do with the ball once he does. It’s almost like he’s being overcoached. He’s got loads of raw talent, but we’re telling him to do things that are new and foreign to him, so he’s out of his comfort zone, the ease on the ball that he had in those first few games is marred by uncertainty or the things he knows he’s supposed to do, and he ends up giving the ball away. That’s what I saw happening in the preseason games. Maybe that clears up, but I hope that we don’t kill his talent by forcing him to play in a way that doesn’t take advantage of his natural skill.

I had a lot of high hopes for Benji from seeing clips from a few reserve matches last year when he looked really good. But this preseason he’s failed to live up to anything more than “meh”. I hope that changes and he doesn’t end up like another David Viana.

What I’m not worried about

I’m not worried about our midfield. Or the GK situation. Or our outside backs. Luke Mulholland literally sparkled during preseason (he really did), and will make a good addition to the outside of the diamond. Jordan Allen proved that he can play pretty much anywhere you want him and shows a calm on the ball that rivals experienced veterans on the team. Along with Sebastian Velasquez, these guys just add to RSL’s incredible midfield depth. This year, I feel fairly comfortable that even if you pulled out all four of Salt Lake’s starting midfielders, they’d still have four to replace them for a solid first team.

Between the posts, I’ll be worried this season if both Nick and Jeff are out. Lalo makes me nervous and this preseason was no different. I think that might just be a matter of lack of game time, but some of the decisions he made in those games were not well thought out.

Predicted starting 11: Rimando; Wingert, Borchers, Salcedo, Beltran; Beckerman, Grabavoy, Gil, Morales; Plata, Saborio

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