The signs were there. Signs, otherwise known as cracks in the foundation.
Real Salt Lake went a little stale in 2012. What served the team so well for the last few years, dependence on a central core of good players, but a roster devoid of pricey stars, lost its sharper edge.
So changes are surely on the way at Rio Tinto. How could they not be? The evidence is there in a home record (11-4-1) that just doesn’t look as daunting as previous versions. We’re not that far removed from RSL’s record 29-game home unbeaten streak, which ran through May of last year. That was the RSL model at its best.
The big signpost, of course, was illuminated Tuesday as Jason Kreis’ men could not find a goal against Costa Rica’s Herediano. The 0-0 draw in Utah was enough to eliminate RSL from a tournament that, officials in Utah admit, means a lot to the organization.
Five MLS teams went into CONCACAF Champions League play: three advanced into the quarterfinals, while RSL joined Toronto FC as MLS clubs that couldn’t get it done.
MLSSoccer.com’s Jonah Freedman talks about RSL’s condition in this piece. While wondering if RSL has one last, big, screaming charge up the hill (MLS Cup), Freedman wonders, for instance, about Javier Morales’ DP contract, which is up.
Morales simply has not been the same influence he was in previous years. At 32 years old and coming off a major injury, that’s not shocking. His raw numbers aren’t bad, at 3 goals and 9 assists in 29 contests. Not bad, but not exactly DP or difference-making stuff.
Morales has been outstanding here and there but, like the team, has lost that knife’s edge over a longer stretch.
And there is a choice to be made on Jamison Olave, a wonderful center back when healthy – and this year, that hasn’t been often enough.
Manager Jason Kreis and GM Garth Lagerwey built a smart roster, one that reaped the 2009 MLS Cup, making Kreis the youngest manager to win one. Now they’ll have to rebuild a smart one.