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?
Scoring at Anfield doesn’t get old, especially when your name is Steven Gerrard.
The English midfielder was playing in a friendly match between Liverpool and Real Madrid “legends” on Sunday, when he delivered this tasty goal (and assists to Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, and John Aldridge).
Gerrard redirects a cross over a lunging defender and into a place where he can lash a goal home to put the Reds up 4-0. He dedicated his Man of the Match performance to club legend Ronnie Moran, who died earlier this week.
Real’s comeback came up just short in a 4-3 final, with Fernando Morientes, Ruben de la Red, and Edwin Congo scoring for the visitors.
On a Sunday waiting for the international matches to begin, Gerrard supplies a nice highlight for the rest of us (Extended highlights free on Liverpool’s site).
Mesut Ozil is on international break, and bristling at reports that Arsenal is going to sell him.
The midfielder’s absence from the lineup last week had plenty speculating on his future, even more than usual. His contract expires in 2018, and several reports claimed he’d join Alexis Sanchez as players destined for elsewhere.
“And you think Wenger tells the journalist before he tells me? Then I know him differently,” Ozil told German outlet Welt.
“I have a contract until 2018 in London and I feel very comfortable there. We’ll talk soon and then make a decision.”
Metro notes that Ozil also said he wants to win the Champions League, something that can only happen with Arsenal remaining in the Top Four. We suppose you could make snarky inferences from his “comfortable in London” phrasing, but we’ll leave it there.