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2016 Western Conference Preview Real Salt Lake

Joao Plata and Yura Movsisyan on the attack could be a dynamic duo. Aaron Maund and Jamison Olave in defense... notsomuch.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake

2015 Record:

11-8-15 (W-T-L), 41 pts., 9th in Western Conference

2015 Goals For:

38, 19th in MLS

2015 Goals Against:

48, 14th in MLS

2015 Key Statistic:

Javier Morales: 8 goals, 9 assists
Olmes Garcia, Joao Plata, Devon Sandoval combined: 11 goals, 5 assists

Key Additions:

Omar Holness, Yura Movsisyan, Juan Manuel ‘Burrito' Martinez

Key Subtractions:

Luis Gil, Sebastian Jaime, Alvaro Saborio, Luis Silva

What they have going for them:

RSL are a team that could be on the upward swing in 2016, both because 2015 wasn't very good, or healthy, and because much of the team's core is very young. Salt Lake sport six Home Grown players on their roster, which is cheap for the team, speaks well of their academy system and Real Monarchs USL team, and frees up cap space for bigger DP buys like Yura Movsisyan. Movsisyan is on his second stint with RSL, having played there from 2007 to 2009. He's been with Spartak Moscow since 2012, where he scored 25 goals, but only 3 in 2015. He's a big, meaty, but surprisingly agile center forward, like Olivier Giroud or Loic Remy. If he comes back to Salt Lake with his shooting boots, he can give this team a lift.

RSL returns several core players from the team that went to the 2013 MLS Cup: Javier Morales, Kyle Beckerman, and Nick Rimando. They get a full season with a player they got from Boca Juniors, Burrito Martinez. The #5 pick in the SuperDraft, Omar Holness, could win the job in the 4-3-3 out of camp to partner with Javi Mo in creating from the midfield, which would be pretty cool. Jordan Allen is an exciting young winger, who just needs to be given a clear role: Defender? Attacker? Rimando's PK mind trick will probably save three goals alone in 2016.

What's Troubling?

Maybe I'm a noob, but are teams that play a 4-3-3 supposed to have their leading scorer be a midfielder? No? As you can tell from the key stat above, the RSL offense pretty much starts and finishes with Javier Morales. The three returning forwards above didn't provide the kind of scoring this team needs, hence the reason only the Colorado Rapids were worse on offense in 2015. Plata, Movsisyan, and Burrito Martinez should be better, probably. If not, problems. Also, Javi Mo is 36 years old. Expecting a decline isn't unwarranted.

Then, there's the defense. Tony Beltran and Demar Phillips as the outside backs are pretty solid. But Jamison Olave and Aaron Maund got the bulk of the starts at center back in 2015, and were not stellar. Kyle Beckerman and Luke Mulholland shared or swapped the job of CDM. Beckerman isn't as mobile as he was in 2014. Mulholland is fine, but he is what he is: an average holding mid. Oh, also, this:



Above average offenses in MLS can carve this team up. Maybe one of these young HGPs steps in and improves this team. Short of that, I think RSL is going to need to score a lot of goals, because they're likely to surrender a lot of goals too.

2016 Forecast:

This team might start 5 players in 2016 that weren't there in 2015, making it hard to predict. I'd peg them anywhere from 7th to 10th, mostly depending on Morales' performance. Relying on the oldest player on the roster to have another magical year seems risky, and RSL might get burned bad in 2016.