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Real Salt Lake

12 January 12:43 pm

Photo courtesy: Andy Mead

The 2015 MLS SuperDraft is now only days away and in building up to Real Salt Lake’s 16th pick in the first round on Thursday, we will take a look at some of the standout players and strengths from each of the position groups in the draft.  With the assistance of J.R. Eskilson from TopDrawerSoccer.com, we will examine the goalkeepers and defenders, the midfielders and, first, the forwards.

There are two standout forwards signed to the Generation adidas class in Cyle Larin from Connecticut and Romario Williams from Central Florida.

Along with Larin and Williams, Oregon State’s Khiry Shelton has also turned some heads.

“I love Khiry Shelton.  I think he’s an amazing player that’s going to do really well in MLS.  He’s only had one full college season.  His other three seasons were plagued with injuries and I think some teams will note that as a red flag against him.  If he goes to the right MLS club that can keep him healthy, he’ll look like a steal no matter where he goes,” Eskilson said.  “Cyle Larin is already a Canadian National Team player, so he’s a player that should be able to contribute immediately.”

Beyond those three, though, there is a drop-off that Eskilson calls “significant.”

“After that, Andy Craven (North Carolina) is probably one who could be a potentially could stick on an MLS roster.  He’s got dynamic speed and good skill, but I don’t know if he is that immediate difference-maker in MLS.  It may take some time for him to emerge,” Eskilson noted.  “After that, guys will have to develop skills to help them transition and that’s where you see that drop off.”

Outside of the top tier of players, there are also others that could make their impacts in future years, particularly with the advent of USL Pro partnerships like the one that exists between Real Salt Lake and the Real Monarchs, who will start play in 2015 at Rio Tinto Stadium.

“I like James Rogers a lot.  He didn’t have a great senior year and he’s more of a winger than an out-and-out forward.  He’s quick on the ball.  He’s decent in terms of crossing and finishing, but his competitiveness is going to be the main reason he makes an MLS roster,” Eskilson said.  “He could be a good option for a USL team for a year that could help an MLS team in a year or two.”

In a draft that is relatively light on dynamic attacking threats, the top of this group is quite strong.

We will see how the picks shake out on Thursday beginning at 10:30 am MT when the 2015 MLS SuperDraft from the Philadelphia Convention Center starts with Orlando City SC holding the first pick.

Top Forwards
Cyle Larin, Connecticut.  23 G, 9 A, 39 GP.
Khiry Shelton, Oregon State.  18 G, 16 A, 52 GP.
Romario Williams, Central Florida.  18 G, 5 A, 52 GP.
Andy Craven, North Carolina (pictured).  31 G, 11 A, 70 GP.
James Rogers, New Mexico.  22 G, 21 A, 80 GP.

10 January 12:11 pm

Photo Courtesy: Andy Mead 

Pundits and experts from around the league have been projecting the MLS SuperDraft in the past few days ahead of the now-underway MLS Combine in Florida.  Here is a look at how some of them project Real Salt Lake’s 16th overall pick to fall on Thursday, including comments from the prognosticators.

Jonathan Yardley, MLSsoccer.com

M Leo Stolz, UCLA

“I'm not as sold as the others on Stolz's draft status because of his age, international status and lack of an MLS contract. But he's a class player, and Real Salt Lake are not afraid to gamble.”

The 2014 MAC Hermann Trophy award winner for the year’s outstanding college player finished the 2014 season with nine goals and six assists in leading UCLA to the College Cup final, falling in a shootout to Virginia.  In three years with the Bruins, he notched 20 goals and 22 assists in 63 matches.  He played his freshman season at George Mason University before transferring to UCLA.

Matt Doyle, MLSsoccer.com

D Boyd Okwuonu, North Carolina

“Okwuonu is a good fit for a team that needs depth all over the back line. There's a worry he might not have a true position, but the flip side is that he may be the next A.J. DeLaGarza. FCD passed on signing him as a Homegrown.”

He was perennially among the top defenders in the ACC during his four years with the Tar Heels.  While he may be undersized at 5-foot-8, he makes up for it.  Okwuonu is also a resilient player, starting in all 89 matches he played in over four years for one of the top defenses in the country.

Nate Sulat, MLSsoccer.com

M Dan Metzger, Maryland (pictured)

“Kyle Beckerman isn't getting younger, and Dan Metzger is a promising defense-minded midfielder. This is great value at this spot for RSL to fill a future need and groom him.”

A three-year starter for Maryland, Metzger is a former U.S. U-18 National Teamer who finished his collegiate career with eight goals and four assists in 88 matches.  In 2014, he had three goals and two assists in 22 matches for the Terps.

Ives Galarcep, SBIsoccer.com

M Leo Stolz, UCLA

“Teams will be scared off by the fact Leo Stolz hasn’t signed an MLS senior deal, and there is word that he is making demands on which clubs he is willing to play for. From a soccer standpoint, Stolz could find worse places to wind up than RSL, which plays an excellent brand of soccer and could showcase his skills well.”

Galarcep is in agreement with Yardley on this pick and the tough-as-nails German midfielder could prove a strong contender for playing time in RSL’s midfield if their picks pan out.

TopDrawerSoccer.com

M Eric Bird, Virginia

“A skilled midfielder for the national champions, Bird has the kind of midfield ability that has thrived in the RSL diamond setup in the past.”

You could certainly do worse than a College Cup-winning captain.  Bird was a four-year starter for Virginia, finishing with 15 goals and 10 assists in 73 matches for the Cavaliers, including 12 goals and seven assists in his final two seasons, serving as captain both years.   Although he missed the College Cup final, he was a great presence for Virginia throughout the season.

Check back on Wednesday to see if the pundits change their Mock Drafts after the MLS Combine.

10 January 11:13 am


Photo courtesy: Andy Mead

On Thursday, Major League Soccer announced the Generation adidas class for the 2015 MLS SuperDraft and here is some brief info on the five players signed by the league ahead of next Thursday’s draft.

Cristian Roldan, MF, University of Washington

The former Gatorade HS National Player of the Year played two seasons at the University of Washington, totaling 10 goals and seven assists in 41 matches.  Last season, he had three goals and two assists in 19 matches for the Huskies, helping UW to a 12-5-3 overall record while reaching the third round of the NCAA Tournament.  In his freshman season, he was voted Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and the Soccer America National Freshman of the Year.  He can play in many different roles in the midfield and is projected to go early in the first round.

Alex Bono, GK, Syracuse

It’s rare for a goalkeeper to earn a Generation Adidas contract, but Bono is widely viewed as the top in the class for good reason.  In 59 matches over three seasons for the Orange, he posted 30 clean sheets with a 39-17-3 record.  In 2014, he went 16-4-1 with a 0.55 goals against average and 12 shutouts.  He too helped Syracuse to the NCAA Tournament, reaching the third round.  He was also called in to the U.S. National Team’s January camp by Jugen Klinsmann.

Conor Donovan, D, NC State

The U.S. U-20 National Team defender played just one season in the ever-competitive ACC, but has the size and strength to compete in MLS.  He started 15 matches in his freshman season, notching one goal and one assist, but he has established himself as a rising talent with his showings on the international level with the U.S. U-18 and U-20 National Teams.  He also played for the U-17 Residency Program in two years during high school.

Cyle Larin, F, University of Connecticut

Larin has already appeared for the Canadian National Team and made his mark with the Huskies in just two seasons.  In 39 matches, he had 23 goals while adding six assists.  At 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, he has the size to hold the ball up, but has the finishing touch as well.  In his sophomore season, he tallied nine goals and three assists to lead UConn in scoring for a second consecutive year.

Romario Williams, F, University of Central Florida

In three seasons at UCF, the Jamaican forward notched 18 goals and five assists in 52 matches.  As a junior, he scored seven goals with three assists in 18 matches after a 10-goal season as a sophomore in 2013.

The 2015 MLS SuperDraft kicks off from the Philadelphia Convention Center on Thursday, Jan. 15.

09 January 11:30 am

By now we’ve all had a chance to digest the 2015 MLS schedule.  We’ve looked at some of the more difficult stretches, circled some marquee match-ups and maybe even planned vacations around away matches.

Over at MLSsoccer.com, they’ve also determined which teams have the most difficult schedules.  Based on the formula used in Ben Baer’s story here, Real Salt Lake has the second-most difficult schedule in the league, behind only the San Jose Earthquakes.

To arrive at his results, Baer calculated the average points per game each team averaged, home and away.  Then those point averages were applied to each team’s schedule.  For example, RSL opens the season away against Portland, then home against Philadelphia and Toronto.  Portland averaged 1.41 points per match at home in 2014, Philadelphia averaged 0.94 points on the road and Toronto averaged 1.00 points on the road.  In those three matches, the opponent’s average score would be 1.12.

Over the course of the season, Real Salt Lake’s strength of schedule is 1.44, just behind San Jose’s at 1.47 and ahead of Portland’s at 1.43.

Of note in the league’s chart – the top five hardest schedules are all Western Conference teams while three of the bottom four are in the Eastern Conference.

Now, while this chart is a decent gauge of a schedule’s difficulty, many things change from year-to-year that influence the end results of the season.  So take the scores with a grain of salt.  However, it certainly makes for good conversation as we wait for March 7 when things get started for real.

07 January 5:30 pm

Tyrone Marshall played for five different clubs in his 15-year MLS career.  Three of those clubs were the fiercest competitors with Real Salt Lake – the LA Galaxy, Colorado Rapids and Seattle Sounders FC.  Yet the 40-year-old Jamaican who was hired this week as an Assistant Coach under Jeff Cassar has a familiarity with the coaching staff bordering on brotherhood.

That stems from stints early in his career with the Miami Fusion and Galaxy when he was a teammate of Jeff Cassar, Andy Williams and Craig Waibel, as well as RSL leaders in the locker room Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando.  With Cassar, who like Marshall is an alum of Florida International University, the connection even goes beyond his time at Miami.

“I’ve known Tyrone since the college days.  When I graduated from FIU, Tyrone transferred in.  So I was familiar with him during his college career.  Then we were teammates on the Miami Fusion and I was able to see him at the beginning of his career,” Cassar said.  “He was a young player who was hungry to prove himself.  Then I played against him on many different occasions and became a fan of how he approaches the game.”

Marshall wasn’t hired just for his traits as a player.  He was captain of the Jamaican National Team and a bona fide leader on the teams he played on.  But Marshall also put in the work as a coach of the PDL’s Derby City Rovers last year, going through the work to see the coaching side of the game to complement his extensive playing career.

Marshall will assume the role vacated by Waibel, who served as the assistant coach responsible for defenders for the 2014 season before taking the position of technical director last month.

07 January 4:31 pm

For years, young players vying to be MLS stars had a sink-or-swim proposition in their first years.  Now, with the advent of USL Pro affiliates, teams can afford to be more patient with young, developing talent.

In Utah, that means Real Salt Lake can allow players to ease into their professional careers with the club’s new USL Pro affiliate set to take the pitch in 2015, the Real Monarchs.  With a steady stream of successful young players coming through the RSL-AZ Academy every year, those players now have a chance to develop at the professional level and work their way to the point where they can contribute every day for RSL.

“The potential to develop a player from youth through your second division into your first team is something that when we see it coming into fruition and we see those players earn their chance on the first team … and when we see those faces enter into starting lineups and become consistent starters is when we become a club that has finally achieved something that the American soccer scene hasn’t seen,” Real Salt Lake Technical Director Craig Waibel said.  “We’re all kind of in an arms race.  The teams that produce those first-team quality players first get to raise that flag.”

With Freddy Juarez at the helm, RSL is confident in the coaching staff in place to help nurture the development of the Monarchs into quality MLS players.  He has plenty of experience developing players, having coached with the RSL-AZ Academy for the past few years.  Now, he will be there when many of his former players take the next step toward MLS with the Monarchs.

“They’ve been extremely successful.  They know the style of soccer that we want to play and the type of player that it takes to succeed at RSL,” Real Salt Lake Head Coach Jeff Cassar said of Juarez and the Academy system he led.  “He’s a great tactician.  He’s a great person and he’s been entrenched in the RSL philosophy.  We see the game very similar and that’s going to be important for when we want to move players up to the first team.”

In previous years, RSL and other MLS clubs could send young players out on loan to get consistent playing time, sending them to USL clubs around the country, often hundreds or thousands of miles from the training ground of the MLS club.  Now, with the Monarchs training right in the backyard of RSL and playing games in 2015 at Rio Tinto Stadium, that transition becomes much more palatable for teams looking to get playing time for young players.

And it allows for closer assessment of the players, as the coaches will have an easier time attending matches.

“It gives us the ability to consistently evaluate players.  It gives players the ability to consistently play games in a professional atmosphere,” Waibel said.  “The short-term value is the amount of games we can get.  The long-term value is the development of our own and really seeing as we watch these players come through our system the progression of what we’re doing as a club.”

06 January 1:11 pm

On This Date In Real Salt Lake History

January 6, 2005

When preparing for the club’s inaugural season, Real Salt Lake looked to make a splash.  At the time, there weren’t many in U.S. Soccer who would have been bigger than Clint Mathis and RSL landed the 2002 World Cup scorer to bolster the lineup on this date in 2005.

Through his first seven MLS seasons, the boisterous forward netted 48 goals in 132 matches for the LA Galaxy and MetroStars.  During that tenure from 1998-2003, he was a regular with the U.S. National Team and scored a pivotal goal in the 2002 FIFA World Cup against South Korea, helping the U.S. advance out of the Group Stage.  After the 2003 season, he moved to Germany to play with Hannover, where he played one year, scoring five goals in 17 matches before returning to MLS in 2005 with the expansion club at RSL, reuniting with his former U.S. U-17 coach in John Ellinger.

“To have a striker like Clint, who can do what he does, is a tremendous asset for our team,” Ellinger said in the Salt Lake Tribune article covering the press conference.

Although his forward tandem with Jason Kreis offered a lot of promise, it didn’t materialize on the field and Mathis finished with just three goals in 27 matches while RSL finished the season 5-22-5.  He was traded after the season to the Colorado Rapids and later returned with much greater results in 2008-09, finishing with two goals and seven assists in RSL’s 2009 MLS Cup-winning season.

05 January 4:27 pm

We’ve all made our New Year’s Resolutions and now, on Day 5 of 2015, some of us have even kept to our yearly declarations.

The folks over at RSL Soapbox have unveiled some resolutions of their own for Real Salt Lake and they have been publishing them over the last several days.

Here is a look at some of the goals they have in mind for RSL in 2015.

1. Spread the scoring across the team: “As we look toward 2015 for ways we could improve the team, this could be one.  If we can get Garcia, Jaime, and Sandoval to contribute in a tangible way alongside Plata and Saborio, maybe we'd find ourselves in more comfortable positions in matches.  This could be important to our success as we look for a first Supporters Shield - or as we move into CONCACAF Champions League.”

2. Improve set-piece defense: “Could Real Salt Lake be the first American club to capture a CONCACAF title?  Set-piece defending could be the answer.”

3. Get stronger on the road: “Of our eight losses in 2014, seven of them came on the road.  While that does say some good things about our home record, improving our road performances is something we'll want to work toward.”

4. Do better in the Open Cup: “A year more like 2013 would be good, but we played with fire an awful lot in that year, too.  And then we lost to DC United, who didn't play at all well.”

That’s just a taste of the good work done at RSL Soapbox.  Read more here and tell us your resolutions in the comments below.

29 December 11:54 am

Might we see Real Salt Lake defender Chris Schuler invited to the U.S. National Team's January camp this year?

MLSSoccer.com seems to think so, as they published their list of 10 MLS players  who they think have earned a chance to wear the Stars and Stripes in Jurgen Klinsmann's California-based camp next month.

Schuler is included on a list that includes four defenders, five midfielders and a goalkeeper.  The 27-year-old five-year RSL veteran is now entrenched as a central figure in Head Coach Jeff Cassar's defense after the departures of Nat Borchers and Chris Wingert and he will be pivotal in the evolution of the club in 2015.  Can he start the year with a month in camp with some of the best in MLS?  If so, it will bode well for his sixth season in Claret and Cobalt and serves as a feather in the cap to the continued development of players with Real Salt Lake.

In 2014, Schuler had three goals and one assist in 25 matches for a top-three defensive team in MLS in Real Salt Lake.  He had career highs in goals, starts and minutes played and now has five goals and two assists in 75 career matches.

For the full list of potential January camp invitees, visit MLSSoccer.com.

29 December 11:15 am

It has been a busy year in Utah sports, what with the Jazz starting the Quin Snyder era, the BYU and University of Utah football teams both reaching bowl games and the basketball teams at the Utah (9-2) and BYU (10-4) both having strong starts to the 2014-15 seasons.  That doesn’t even take into account all of the local athletes that took home medals at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

However, to the folks at Real Sports Live on ABC 4 Utah, one name stood out among the rest as Utah’s Sportsperson of the Year for 2014 – Real Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman.

Now, Beckerman didn’t earn the honor just for a Best XI-caliber season in helping Real Salt Lake reach the MLS Cup playoffs for the seventh consecutive season while posting a fifth consecutive year of at least 15 wins and 50 points.  But it certainly didn’t hurt his cause.

What truly stuck out for the RSL captain was his time with the U.S. National Team in 2014.  Beckerman started in eight of his nine appearances with the U.S. this year, including starts in all three Group Stage matches as the U.S. went 1-1-1 to advance out of the Group of Death against Germany, Portugal and Ghana.

The dreadlocked superstar was rewarded with a contract extension that will keep him with The Claret-and-Cobalt for years to come.

Also on the list of finalists was RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who broke the all-time MLS shutout streak, led Major League Soccer in goals against average and was also included on the U.S. World Cup squad.

For the full Year in Review show on Real Sports Live, click here.