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.
Matt Miazga is back again in the Netherlands.
Chelsea announced Friday that it had loaned the American international to Vitesse for the second-consecutive year on a season-long loan. Miazga made 19 starts last season in all competitions and another 10 appearances for Vitesse off the bench, with one goal scored in the run to the KNVB Cup title, the club’s first in its history,
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Despite his rise through the U.S. youth ranks and success with the New York Red Bulls in 2015 before moving to Chelsea, Miazga only made his first U.S. Men’s National Team start at the 2017 Gold Cup, playing the full 90 in the USA’s 3-0 win over Nicaragua.
Miazga went straight from the Gold Cup back to Vitesse to join up for preseason training.
“I look back with pleasure on my first year at Vitesse,” the 22-year-old Miazga told Vitesse’s website. “I felt very welcome and we have all made historic success. That success will be expanded this coming season and I will continue to develop myself. That’s why I returned as soon as possible after winning the Gold Cup. We are going to compete for the second prize in the club’s history. ”
While it’s disappointing that Miazga won’t be able to challenge for a place at Chelsea next season, he could do worse than facing the challenge of the Eredivisie’s huge array of talented attackers, and after another year of seasoning, he could be ready to play in England, with or without Chelsea.
More importantly for him, with the World Cup coming up, even though he’s on the fringe of the World Cup roster right now, getting regular matches in the Eredivisie will help his cause more than playing for Chelsea’s reserves.
Christian Pulisic isn’t short on confidence these days.
The rising star for the U.S. Men’s National Team is currently in preseason training with Borussia Dortmund, and he believes his side can push Bayern Munich for the title. Bayern has won five-straight league titles, but the last team other than Munich to win was Dortmund itself in 2012.
“We’ve got a big chance to win the league this coming season,” Pulisic said, via German publication Kicker.
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Pulisic has been firing on all cylinders so far in preseason. During Dortmund’s tour of China, Pulisic had three assists in a 3-1 win over AC Milan, and he also started and went the full 90 against Bochum on July 22 back in Germany.
The 18-year-old is coming off a breakout season for the Black and Yellows, scoring five goals with 13 assists over 43 games between the Bundesliga, German Cup and UEFA Champions League.
“Last season was a good step in my development,” Pulisic said, noting he wants to be “more dangerous” in the attack. “I want to build on that.”
Of course, Pulisic followed the U.S. Men’s National Team at the Gold Cup, taking the title for the sixth time. In less than a year’s time, Pulisic will likely be on the field, starting for the U.S. at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, with the hopes and dreams of many Americans on his shoulders.
“(It was) a good victory,” Pulisic said of the final.
It appears Gareth Bale has no plans of following Alvaro Morata and James Rodriguez out of Real Madrid this summer.
“It’s a ridiculous, stupid story,” Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett told the BBC, following reports that Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane wouldn’t promise Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo that they’d staying with the club this summer.
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Of course, these prompted counter reports that Manchester United could take advantage of possible instability at the Santiago Bernabeu and swoop in for Bale, but it seems that Bale is not for sale.
Bale played just 27 times for Real Madrid last season in all competitions, scoring nine goals with three assists while dealing with multiple injuries. His entire career at Real Madrid in fact has been plagued by injury, but ahead of a World Cup year with Wales still in contention for a spot in Russia, Bale will be extra motivated to stay fit this season.
Here’s some more transfer rumors from around the world:
Neymar just won’t stay out of the headlines.
As his long-rumored “will he, won’t he go” transfer saga between Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona continues, Neymar stormed out of training on Thursday after getting into a tussle with teammate Nelson Semedo.
A video from the Daily Mail shows Neymar pushing Semedo before walking off and removing his training bib.
Neymar has reportedly agreed to personal terms with PSG over a move to France, but PSG have yet to come up with the nearly $260 million it would cost to trigger Neymar’s release clause. The news of Neymar possibly leaving Barcelona came as a shock, as he’s been content since joining the club to play slightly in the shadow of teammates Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.
If this fight is any indication, Neymar’s head could be turned and should PSG trigger the release clause, Neymar could be heading to Paris once Barcelona returns this weekend from its American sojourn.
In spite of all the transfer speculation, Neymar has dazzled for Barcelona on its tour of the U.S., scoring three goals in two games and delighting the thousands in attendance.