Management around Rio Tinto knew this year would be a work in progress, a time of learning and lessons for young men who replaced the wily veterans around Real Salt Lake.
It’s not that the club deciders didn’t like Jamison Olave, Fabian Espindola and Will Johnson, all of whom are doing wonderfully at their new MLS addresses. But the reality of a tight salary cap, plus a bit of competitive sticking point onto with the team had arrived, meant that RSL needed some roster adjustment.
It’s still quite early in all this, but the results of the roster rebuild are already coming to fruition for RSL.
Jason Kreis’ team took a 2-0 lead into the break, but that lead could have easily been three or four goals. Only the outstanding work of Seattle goaltender Michael Gspurning, a very, very busy Austrian boy in the opening 45 minutes, kept it from being so.
So much of the threat came from a pair of RSL youngsters. Young midfielder Luis Gil, still just 19 years old, was an absolute show-stopper. His skill and industry, while operating high in Real’s midfield diamond, was evident all night (or, until he gave way for veteran Javier Morales after 62 minutes. And his goal (the eventual game-winner, which he is celebrating in the picture) was a work of training ground art, a corner kick sequence the side has surely rehearsed time and again.
Meanwhile, rookie forward Devon Sandoval, a 21-year-old bundle of skill, hair and energy. The rookie troubled Seattle’s back line with his hold-up work, intelligent runs and by helping arrange chances for others. He won’t get an assist on Robbie Findley’s early goal Saturday, but Sandoval certainly occupied a defender (Jhon Kennedy Hurtado), helping free up some space for Findley’s athletic put-away.
Highlights of Saturday’s win for Real Salt Lake:
L.A. Galaxy’s Keane retires from Republic of Ireland duty
Friday brings us the beginning of the Bundesliga season, meaning every major league will have started its season.
There are American players throughout Europe worth watching, many of them well-established with their clubs. We know plenty of Danny Williams at Reading, of Fabian Johnson at Borussia Monchengladbach, and Geoff Cameron at Stoke City.
But what about the young crowd, the ones we know a bit less about? Let’s call the group Americans under the age of 23, with 10 caps or less. We quizzed our ProSoccerTalk staff, weighted the rankings according to power, and wound up with 15 names from MLS to the PL.
Players were given one point for each mention, and a corresponding value to whether they were ranked first (10 points) or tenth (1 point) by a given writer.
PST’s Top 15 USMNT prospects
15. Jerome Kiesewetter, Fortuna Dusseldorf (1)
The twice-capped forward has six goals in 16 appearances for the U-23 side, and just moved to a new 2.Bundesliga home.
14. Joe Gyau, Borussia Dortmund (1)
The 23-year-old was about as exciting a prospect as any when he tore his meniscus against Ecuador. Now, he’s just getting back on the pitch and a loan may be on the cards.
13. Wil Trapp, Columbus Crew (3)
Of players aged 23 or younger, only one has had a better overall season than Trapp. The 23-year-old just fits on our list, and needs to find another level, but he’s going to be solid at worst.
12. Walker Zimmerman, FC Dallas (4)
The seventh-overall pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, the big Georgian has been outstanding this season.
11. Erik Palmer-Brown, Sporting KC/Porto B (5)
It’s easy to forget about EPB, the 6-foot-1 center back who left SKC on loan in February, but he’s gone 90 minutes in every match since making his Porto B debut in March. Juventus bid $1 million for Palmer-Brown when he was still 16, and they know a thing or two about scouting kids.
10. Rubio Rubin, FC Utrecht (6)
The 20-year-old started Utrecht’s first two matches of the season as a center forward after foot surgery cost him much of 2015-16. No one should ignore his 3 goal, 6 assist season the previous season.
9. Emerson Hyndman, AFC Bournemouth (12)
The 20-year-old just moved to the Premier League, and has yet to debut after playing out his contract with Fulham in hopes of greener pastures.
We don’t have to really say anything, do we? The 17-year-old Pennsylvania kid has made an impact at one of the biggest clubs in the world, and could be set for a loan now that BVB has added Mario Gotze, Andre Schurrle, and Ousmane Dembele.
It’s hard for some teams to assess at this point, with players coming off busy summers, and adapting to new leagues, coaches and roles. Some teams, like Hull City, are off to a dream start but surely also no illusions. Others, like Arsenal, know things aren’t nearly as bad as they seem after a 1-point start to the campaign.
Although things are indeed bad. Just not relegation bad.
Let’s wait no more…
Arsenal — I’m starting to consider that Arsene Wenger‘s defensive preparations involve using a club to whack at his defenders’ bodies. Depth in the back is key, and Arsenal sure could use that high-profile, effective forward they’ve needed for a long, long while.
Bournemouth — In a pretty good spot now, but an added defender capable of playing any position on the back line is not a bad idea.
Burnley — While the addition of Steven Defour is fantastic, another weapon like him wouldn’t be bad. Honestly, it’s too bad Danny Ings didn’t stick around!
Chelsea — Defensive depth in the center park would be useful. The long time link with Napoli center back Koulibaly isn’t going anywhere.
Watford — Likely done, though another defender wouldn’t hurt.
West Bromwich Albion — Tony Pulis has made a couple very good pick-ups in underrated QPR man Matty Phillips and Everton loanee Brendan Galloway. That said, he’d love to get better at every spot on the pitch. Anything is possible if the bosses open their wallets.
West Ham United — A striker would help with injuries to Andy Carroll and Andre Ayew. Otherwise, the Irons are sneaky deep everywhere.