You can’t blame those who thought the losses of Andy Williams, Collen Warner, Robbie Russell, and Jean Alexandre would tear into Real Salt Lake’s characteristic depth, but after one month of the season, it’s clear RSL’s reloaded.
Early season fitness issues surrounding Javier Morales and Alvaro Saborio allowed Jason Kreis to show off this year’s reinforcements. Paulo Junior’s role looks set to expand again up top. Luis Gil is ready to persist with the contributions he made in Morales’ absence, while Sebastian Velasquez and Jonny Steele have claimed regular spots in Kreis’ midfield rotation. Chris Schuler is pushing Nat Borchers at the back.
To this point, Kreis hasn’t had to give a firm indication as to who’s in his choice XI, though it was assumed Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola will be his forwards, Ned Grabavoy and Will Johnson will get the key starts between Javier Morales and Kyle Beckerman, while Nat Borchers will have the toughest time retaining his starting spot along side Jamison Olave.
But as RSL approaches full health, questions persist. Let’s look at how the playing time has shaken out thus far:
- Although Alvaro Saborio has appeared in all six matches, he’s only started two. Paulo Junior has been the regular starter as the team’s advanced attacker, usually supported by Fabian Espindola. Outstanding question: When will Saborio resume his starting spot?
- At the top of the diamond, Morales has only started once, playing just 212 minutes all season. Luis Gil, however, has started six times, five in the midfield’s most advanced position. Outstanding questions: When will Morales fully return, and does that bump Gil to the bench or the left side of midfield?
- At the wide midfield positions, Ned Grabavoy and Sebastian Velasquez have made the most starts, but Will Johnson, Jonny Steele and Gil are also options. Johnson was hobbled to start the year, though his time out only created an opening for Velasquez. Outstanding question: Which two players will emerge as go-to guys between Morales and Beckerman?
- And at the back, Chris Schuler’s gotten four starts, Nat Borchers two to the left of Jamison Olave. Borchers was slowed up by injury last month, but even since his return, the former MLS Best XI member is time-sharing. Outstanding question: Does Kreis see this as Schuler’s time?
I couldn’t find a good place to link this within the piece, but if you want a little more on Saturday’s showdown, here’s a little bit on how the formations match up as well as the potential impact of Sporting Kansas City’s Bobby Convey.