Sounder at Heart: Slow news week for RSL fans, eh? How are you doing? Are you remembering to drink water?
RSL Soapbox: So I’ve actually been using this app called Waterminder, which reminds me every hour to drink water. However, since I started working from home in March, there is considerably less appeal to getting up and getting some water, so I have often found myself ignoring the notifications. I should probably get back to that.
In other news, there is — for the first time in a long time — a renewed sense of joy among Real Salt Lake supporters. There are, of course, some who have found room to express their displeasure with the billionaire owner being ousted for reasons of “he gives to charity” — it does nothing to speak of the reports of racism and sexism that have come directly from his office, and have made themselves a hallmark of some members of the club’s management culture. It has been quite toxic for a long time, and while it’s easy to ask, “Why didn’t anyone say anything?”, I would also argue that there have been many who have worried for the ramifications for their job in an industry that is interconnected and insular.
Coming back to the joy: I am somewhat surprised that Real Salt Lake has managed to avoid being terrible on the field through all this. From the hiring of Freddy Juarez forward, we have looked like a team with ideas and a plan, and while we don’t always execute on that plan particularly well, there is something very exciting about that appearance. Knowing now how difficult it must have been to maintain that momentum is striking.
SAH: Meanwhile, you guys still have a soccer team to cover. What’s changed for RSL’s roster since they lost to Seattle in the playoffs last year? Any new additions Sounders fans should watch out for?
RSB: We do! For now. I kid — I don’t think the team will move anywhere. It’s been a topic some have brought up repeatedly (local TV news outlets are particularly bad in this regard), but there is little reason to worry about that.
Our roster has actually not changed significantly since then, owing perhaps to Dell Loy Hansen’s reluctance to spend on scouting, recruitment, and players. We have a few changes that are worth calling out, but it must be said that these are largely incremental changes, even if the names are big.
First up is Justin Meram, who started the season pretty poorly (although when the third game is months removed from the second, one wonders if maybe it’s hard for new players to adapt to new teams). He’s starting to come into his own, and I suspect — but am not certain — he will start the match.
Next up is Giuseppe Rossi, who is again an active professional soccer player after ages of not being at a club. He’s not getting regular minutes, but after two years of absence and a string of injuries before then, it’s easy to see why. He, himself, may be tiring of that fact, having spoken a bit about it after the last match. He was a fairly massive gamble to bring on, but he did score an important goal for us on Saturday, so he’ll be worth paying attention to.
The other additions have, to this point, failed to demonstrate why they deserve minutes. That includes Jeizon Ramirez, our young Designated Player signing, who was only just starting to make his home in Utah before the world turned upside down. It’s hard not to feel for him.
SAH: Eight of RSL’s last 11 goals came in their last two matches since MLS re-restarted. What’s the story behind the jolt in offense? How do you suggest the Sounders stop that?
RSB: I have no idea how it happened, honestly. It’s been a weird puzzle. There are a few factors I’ve considered: first, I believe Colorado is bad, so that would explain our pasting of them. It was quite fun. Second, Portland looked absolutely clueless on defense in the closing minutes of Saturday’s 4-4 draw, with the 4-2 lead in the last 10 minutes vanishing before their eyes. Honestly, I really loved that. You are welcome, too, because I am certain that you have delighted in Portland’s on-field woes before.
As for stopping the offense — I actually think it could be easy. If Albert Rusnak is motivated to play, then I think you need to keep him from making runs into the box. Redirect him — he’s a possession-focused player — and he will likely keep the ball in less dangerous parts of the field. Other players have proven fairly inconsistent to this point, but I think it is fair to say that watching the channels closely is a common point from Corey Baird and Justin Meram, and it’s something I think you’ll see RSL try to focus on. I could very well be wrong, though. It’s happened before.
The reserve answers can be found here.