It’s that time of year again! We’re going through each team in the Western Conference to see how they ended last year, how things have gone in the offseason, and what we might expect from them in 2020. They will be published in no particular order, and you can find all of them here.
2019 Record: 16-13-5 (53 points, 3rd in WC, lost round 2 to Seattle)
Goals For: 46 (11th in WC)
Goals Against: 41 (second best in WC)
Three Key Additions:
Justin Meram, Zac MacMath, Freddy Juarez (Head Coach)
Three Key Subtractions:
Nick Rimando, Brooks Lennon, Joao Plata
After three years of mid-table finishes and dramatic Decision Day games determining a playoff berth, Real Salt Lake finally clinched a playoff spot ahead of time in 2019. Our Western nemesis will be looking to repeat last year’s success under new Head Coach Freddy Juarez this season—but without the likes of fan-favorite and longtime defender Tony Beltran and US Men’s National Team goalkeeper, Nick Rimando, both of whom retired following the conclusion of the season. The Seattle Sounders eliminated the team in the Western Conference semifinals last season, but Salt Lake has quietly improved their roster this offseason and will look to be stronger (and younger) going into their 16th MLS season.
A big shock for RSL fans in the offseason was when Brooks Lennon left for Atlanta United in exchange for 300k. Lennon commonly featured in multiple positions on the right side following Tony Beltran’s career-ending injury, and Salt Lake had no depth as a replacement.
RSL quickly acquired fullback Alvin Jones from USL side OKC Energy, who will need to prove that he is the right man for the job this preseason. RSL’s only other major actions this offseason included adding MLS veterans Ashtone Morgan, Zac MacMath, and Justin Meram.
Meram is expected to be the playmaker needed to replace Plata, but has fallen off since leaving the Columbus Crew in 2017. Ashtone Morgan appears to be a backup to Alvin Jones, while MacMath hopes to earn a starting spot with his new club and fill the absence left by Nick Rimando.
Going into 2020, RSL have been slowly improving the squad, developing homegrown talents in Milan Iloski, David Ochoa, Luis Arriaga, Julian Vazques, and Christopher Garcia. Salt Lake may need a year to transition but between the homegrowns and new veterans, but they have the potential to make a dent this decade. While a mid-table finish looks likely for this team, Freddy Juarez has many players at his disposal and looks to have a strong core for his team. The main concern for RSL is improving depth while their homegrowns and young talent continue to develop.