Sneak Peek: Real Salt Lake banks on new playmaker

After missing the MLS playoffs for the first time in seven years in 2015, Real Salt Lake came storming back and returned to the postseason in 2016. But a late-season slump -- no wins in its last seven games -- put a damper on the season. The offseason saw one big move as Albert Rusnak was signed from Dutch club Groningen.

Opening day ...
Projected XI --
Rimando; Beltran, Horst, Schuler, Wingert; Sunny, Mulholland; Allen, Rusnak, Plata; Movsisyan.

The young Slovakian international will have big shoes to fill as he must fill in at playmaker for 36-year-old Javier Morales, whose option was not picked up after 10 seasons with RSL. At his farewell press conference, Morales said he wanted to stay and his 2017 contract would have been picked up if he started 24 games. (He finished with 23 starts when he began the season finale at Seattle on the bench.)

Rusnak is 14 years younger than Morales and was a bright spot in preseason. He is one of only two changes in the Real Salt Lake lineup. Young American Jordan Allen has taken over for Juan Manuel Martinez in midfield. Burrito returned to Argentina to play for former club Velez Sarsfield after he told local media he needed to care for a family dog suffering from cancer and needing chemotherapy.

One big issue for RSL in 2016 was injuries. Sunny multiple facial fractures in a game against the Red Bulls on June 22. The first-year Nigerian, whose injury coincided with RSL's spiral, played only three games after that. Yura Movsisyan returned to RSL after seven years in Europe and scored nine goals -- an MLS career high -- but was bothered by a bruised heel that limited his availability late in the season.

Both Sunny and Movsisyan should start when RSL opens at home Saturday against Toronto FC, but the status of Kyle Beckerman, MLS's all-time leader for appearances by a field player, is questionable. He missed the entire preseason as he battled a knee injury suffered in late January.

Who’s in …
GOALKEEPERS: Matt Van Oekel (FC Edmonton, NASL Signing). DEFENDERS: David Horst (Houston Dynamo, MLS Free Agent). MIDFIELDERS: Jose Hernandez (UCLA, Homegrown), Albert Rusnak (Groningen/NED, Transfer). FORWARDS (6): Chad Barrett (San Jose Earthquakes, MLS Free Agent), Brooks Lennon (Liverpool/ENG, Loan), Sebastian Saucedo (Veracruz/MEX, Loan Expired).

Who’s out …
GOALKEEPERS: Jeff Attinella (Portland Timbers, Trade via Minnesota United). DEFENDERS: Phanuel Kavita, Jamison Olave (Retired), Boyd Okwuonu. MIDFIELDERS: Javier Morales (FC Dallas, MLS Free Agent), John Stertzer (New York City FC, Free Agent). FORWARDS: Pedro Baez (Cerro Porteno/PAR, Loan Expired), Olmes Garcia, Juan Manuel Martinez (Velez Sarsfield/ARG, Free Agent), Devon Sandoval (San Francisco Deltas, Free Agent), Emery Welshman.

First five games …
March 4 -– Toronto FC
March 11 -- at Chicago Fire
March 18 -- LA Galaxy
March 25 -- at NY Red Bulls
April 1 -- at Minnesota United
1 comment about "Sneak Peek: Real Salt Lake banks on new playmaker".
  1. Nick Daverese, February 27, 2017 at 4:59 a.m.

    Looking forward to see any true play maker play. He just has to put himself in a position to make a lot of touches. So after his touch he needs to move into attack to get a return pass or on a return pass from the third player to touch the ball.

    There was a time about ten years ago when FIFA thought the play maker was a dead position.

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