RSL Season Preview

The recent offseason was one of the most dynamic in RSL club history. Most notably, a new ownership group led by David Blitzer and Ryan Smith purchased the organization. Their leadership is already paying dividends through investment and player acquisition, including new attacker Sergio Cordova.

RSL beings the 2022 season at the Houston Dynamo. (Photo from Real Salt Lake)

While the full impact of the new ownership and other offseason events remain to be seen, there is renewed belief and optimism permeating through the club and its fanbase. As the Claret and Cobalt prepare for their 16th MLS season, there are still plenty of questions that need to be answered. Today I'll look at three of them.


Which RSL will show up?


The 2021 season saw RSL make an impressive run to the Western Conference Final, but the club also needed a miraculous last-gasp goal on Decision Day to even make the playoffs. This contrast reflected RSL's rollercoaster performances throughout the season. They dazzled at times, and floundered at others. The team found ways to win games they should not have, such as the no-shot playoff victory at Seattle, and lost other winnable matches despite dominating throughout.


The club is finally stable off the field thanks to the new ownership and the permanent hire of head coach Pablo Mastroeni. Now RSL will look to be stable on the field as well, but it remains to be seen if the club will be stable and mediocre or stable and excellent. Much of that will come down to Mastroeni's ability to build on last season, where he often switched between tactics and formations. A full offseason of him implementing his ideas will hopefully lead to the sustained success the fanbase has been longing for since 2013.


Where will the offensive production come from?


Last year's squad scored 55 goals, good for third-best in the Western Conference. Damir Kreilach led the way with 16 goals, supported by Albert Rusnak's 11 goals and 11 assists. While Kreilach is still with the team -- and wearing the captain's armband -- Rusnak departed to the Seattle Sounders in free agency.


Mastroeni will continue to rely on Kreilach for goals, but more production will be necessary, especially from the forwards. Former United States Men's National Team star Bobby Wood is hopefully fully healthy and poised for a breakout season. Rubio Rubin had a great start to 2021, before cooling off down the stretch. If one or both of Wood and Rubin can reach double-digit goals this year, it will go a long way towards helping RSL's production.


How will new additions make an impact, and who will the new additions be?


As previously mentioned, Cordova is one addition already on the roster, as is a slew of homegrown signings. The new ownership has shown their willingness to splash cash to improve the roster, so more additions are likely on the way, although it remains to be seen who will join and what positions they will fill. RSL needs another high-quality centerback, a creative attacking midfielder, a consistent holding midfielder, and depth on the front lines. With plenty of space to work with -- and several open DP slots -- expect the front office to be busy throughout the season.


Several players have been rumored to being in negotiations with the club. Famed transfer expert Fabrizio Romano reported on Jan. 31 that RSL was "close to completing a deal" for Gustavo Cuellar, a Colombian holding midfielder currently playing in Saudi Arabia. RSL Soapbox's Lucas Muller reported on Wednesday that the club was talking with wingers Jefferson Savarino, who played with RSL from 2017-19, and Anderson Julio, who was with the team last year on loan. Savarino had 21 goals and 21 assists in his three MLS seasons, which would help fill the void left by Rusnak. Julio had eight goals in his one year as a supersub. Finally, The RSL Show reported today that Sebastian Saucdeo is hoping to return to the club. Another winger, Saucedo played for RSL from 2014-19, notching five goals and 11 assists, with all of his goals and nine of his assists coming in his last two seasons.


With RSL needing depth at several positions, any addition, especially one with the high transfer fees ownership is willing to spend, will likely boost the club's bottom line. If the front office is able to fill the club's DP spots, RSL could become a real contender in the West. The combination of returning talent, consistency off the field, and potential new additions leaves RSL with a high ceiling for the near, and distant, future.