RSL 2010 Preview: Capable midfield returns to run the show
Part 3 in a 5-part series
A team's style of play is usually the direct result of its midfield. It's the engine of the squad. That's a big reason for Real Salt Lake's championship run in 2009 -- RSL has a different style in the middle than many other teams in the league.
You won’t see midfielders running on the flank or consistently sending in crosses from a wide position -- the 4-4-2 diamond doesn’t cater to that style. Instead, you’ll see a more compact midfield that overlaps and moves constantly, with short, tight passing, and a strong technical ability.
Here's a look at RSL's midfielders for the 2010 season:
Javier Morales: A talented and technical Argentine attacking mid. He’s coming off knee surgery from an injury he suffered in the MLS Cup final, but looks to be in good shape. He had some magic in 2008, but it seemed to wane somewhat last year. Look for him to play up to his full potential this season.
Kyle Beckerman: The captain of the team, and a player who's always hustling. He paroles the defensive side of the midfield, but his distribution is where he really helps this team to excel. His quality of play led him to U.S. national-team camp this January. He may not be in South Africa this summer, but he'll play a key role for his club this season.
Ned Grabavoy: a solid backup a year ago -- he’ll be looking to compete for starting minutes this season with the departure of Clint Mathis. Grabavoy has some creative ability, and fits well into the RSL midfield. Very blue-collar, which seems like a good fit for his role on this team.
Will Johnson: a player who is all about non-stop action. His motor is always running. Also has a powerful right foot from distance which won him the Goal of the Year in 2008. Can this be a breakout year for Johnson?
Andy Williams: had a bit of a renaissance last year after dealing with off-the-field medical issues with his wife, Marcia, earlier in the season. Very creative, and holds the ball well. Has a rifle of a right foot, earning him the nickname “Bomma.” It seems like everyone keeps predicting a diminished role for him, but I don't see it happening this season.
Jean Alexandre: could be a young player to also step up and help fill the void by the departed Mathis. Has really shown signs of promise in the preseason, and could spell Beckerman at the defensive midfield spot.
Nelson González: a young, left-sided midfielder who has a lot of technical talent, boundless energy and no fear. Will be looking to claw for some minutes in a talented midfield.
Collen Warner: a talented youngster coming via the first round of the SuperDraft. He can play on the right or in a central attacking role. This type of player will be extremely valuable as another option for depth in the midfield during a long, grueling schedule this season.
Alex Nimo: a talented young Generation Adidas player, who once again will be on loan with the Portland Timbers this season.
Luis Gil: another talented young prospect, acquired via trade with Kansas City, which acquired his rights through weighted lottery in the offseason. RSL is planning on taking it slow with him and limiting the pressure. Any contribution from him this season will be gravy.
Stay tuned for a look at the forwards tomorrow.