MLS Season Preview: Real Salt Lake

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As much as teams like Los Angeles and New York boast more star power, a very strong argument can be made that the strongest team in MLS heading into 2011 is Real Salt Lake.

A year removed from winning its first MLS Cup title, Real Salt Lake is poised to return to the top of the league. Featuring a record-setting defense and dangerous and entertaining offense, RSL is one of the clear title favorites heading into the new season.

Here is my Fox Soccer preview on an RSL side that should challenge Los Angeles and FC Dallas for top honors in the Western Conference, and could win multiple trophies this year.

Here are some more thoughts on 2011 Real Salt Lake:

2011 REAL SALT LAKE

They'll win because: They're defense will be as stingy as it was in 2010 and Alvaro Saborio and Javier Morales find an even better understanding, making the RSL attack unstoppable.

They'll lose because: Injuries impact the back-line and Saborio struggles to have the same impact in year two as year one.

Player who could break out: Collen Warner

Player who could regress: Nat Borchers

Player who needs to improve on 2010: Chris Wingert

Newcomer to watch: Cody Arnoux

Projected Finish: RSL finished with the second-best record in MLS last year, but with the same nucleus back, and Saborio poised for a strong second season, Real Salt Lake should be considered the favorite to win the MLS Cup, which would be the team's second in three years.

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 What do you think of Real Salt Lake's chances of winning another MLS Cup? See a trophy or two in the team's future, or do you think RSL will take a step back this year?

Share your thoughts below.

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30 Responses to MLS Season Preview: Real Salt Lake

  1. RSLdude says:

    This year will only be considered a success if A) We win the MLS Cup. or B) If we win the Champions league. PERIOD. Sorry Open Cup glory or no, we are looking for bigger prizes…

  2. Royals in 208 says:

    I’ll 2nd that. Supporters Shield, MLS Cup, and CCL are the main objectives.

  3. el guanaco says:

    i really like our chances this year. we’ve added a few nice pieces and should see improvements from some of the younger guys (warner, schuler, gonzalez, even gil). also, by all accounts the early CONCACAF games ensured that everyone came into camp in shape.

    i don’t know about arnoux as the newcomer to watch. my vote would be alvarez or even paulo jr. who could be considered a newcomer because he joined the squad at the end of last season because RSL needed a scoring threat to replace the ineffective findley.

    RSL waiving campos must mean they have some faith in arnoux as a 4th or 5th option up top (sabo, espi, paulo, alvarez) but barring injuries i don’t see him getting much PT.

  4. Hincha Tim says:

    I agree with the others that the mention of Cody Arnaux as the newcomer to watch is sort of puzzling. I don’t think he’s seen any playing time and he is clearly the last option at forward for the team. I would say Paulo Jr. is the newcomer to watch, since he arrived late last year and will see much more playing time this year. He could turn into something special.

    The backline is not a real concern to me. The centerback position is very deep, with Russell, Schuler or McKenzie ready to step in if needed. Outside backs have either Russell or Beltran (whoevers not starting) who can sub in or Will Johnson played very well at the outside back position last year a couple of times.

    I think the biggest concern injury-wise would be if Javi Morales was injured.

    The biggest concern over the season is the burn out factor since the season started so early. But with a deep, deep bench I think that can be mitigated with smart rotations.

  5. skinnyj says:

    spot on Ives…the major concern RSL (and really any other team with talented, creative players) is the competence of MLS officials keeping the hacks and goons off of Morales all season. If he is able to stay healthy, RSL should win some hardware. Although it seems the league is getting less “physical= holding and hacking) the last few years, there is still a ways to go to proect the talented players in this league.

  6. Brad says:

    OVER-RATED!

    LETS GO RAPIDS!

  7. Matt says:

    Duh.

  8. Matt says:

    Yeah! Go Crapids!

  9. Boris Spektor says:

    RSL suck! Go New York!

  10. Ivan says:

    Somewhat off-topic question (RSL is a great team, btw, they do play attractive brand of football): I know that MLS recently renewed their partnership w/ adidas. Does anyone know if MLS plans on using that Jabulani abomination as its official ball for the 2011 season? That would be a shame! I hope adidas learned from their mistake and successful attempt at destroying the recent World Cup and will never force that Jabulani disaster on any other poor league on the planet…

  11. RSLnPortland says:

    Agree; Jubalani is the worst ball I ever played with. Of course the previous worst ball was the MLS official ball that proceeded Jubalani….

  12. Mark says:

    I have yet to meet an RSL fan that is not enthusiastic about Paulo Jr. Perhaps he’s not a newcomer since he played a bit during the last part of 2010 season but he is an exciting player to watch. Not saying I’m not interested in Cody Arnaux, just don’t know about him yet.

    The second leg CONCACAF match against the Crew at Rio Tinto has me all fired up. Yes there was a little rust and some mistakes, but for the most part RSL just looked good. Had me out of my seat the whole game. Looking forward to this season!

  13. Neruda says:

    RSL also has me pumped. I remember going to games the first three seasons at Rice Eccles and this team was atrocious under John Ellenger. Hiring Kries and revamping the front office made this into a class club.

    Borchers form will not drop and added offensive weapons such as Paulo Jr, Warner etc will free up Alvaro for open looks. This team has improved in depth of personnel and experience.

  14. Jeff says:

    All of last season was played with the Jabulani.

  15. qax says:

    Houston fan since 2006, but I have to admit that RSL soccer was a lot more fun to watch last year than Dynamo. Looking forward to seeing them this season (and I hope they destroy Saprissa…)

  16. whistlers_brother says:

    Keep your Chinn up…

  17. Peter says:

    I hope so too, but tough luck with that.

  18. Jon L. says:

    I think it’s possible for Real Salt Lake to win the MLS Cup this year after their strong showing last year. The only obstacle with be the Galaxy.

  19. Boris Spektor says:

    nice haha

  20. Scott A says:

    Good luck from a NY fan. Solid team.

  21. Big Chil says:

    and the Rapids.

  22. bandeeto says:

    As an RSL fan I’m more worried about Dallas tha LA.

  23. Giant G says:

    Agree about Wingert…He seems to be the weak link. If the young Tony Beltran matures quickly, The defense can be even stronger. Paulo Jr, Alvarez and Warner should be key offensive subsitutes if not starters. It will be interesting to see how quickly Gil and Arnoux can progress…They could be able to provide some depth.

    This team can play with any in Concacaf

  24. Really hoping RSL wins the CONCACAF Champions League. I’m not so much of an RSL fan as I am a USA (and MLS) fan – and having a team from the MLS crowned club champ of CONCACAF would be a huge success for the league. If I had to pick any MLS team for the task, I’d pick RSL – hope they can do it!

  25. Neruda says:

    Galaxy will be good again but they seem to just get older. Angel will not duplicate Buddle’s production from the last two seasons and Beck’s will pretend to play hard but he’s Tottenham on the brain (or was that Birmingham?). And if I’m not mistaken they can’t go out and get another DP since Angel is their third. Of course the league will surprisingly change that if the Galaxy fall in the standings.

  26. Neruda says:

    Yea I’m with you although getting rid of McCarty and Pearce seems like a step back for Dallas. If their youngsters can fill those roles in the same way they’ll be lethal again this year. Let’s also not forget that they’ll be competing in CCL this summer so they’ll be tested like RSL was last season.

  27. Benjamin says:

    I agree that the team will be good and that the two players that are going to break out are Collen Warner and Cody Arnoux, but I dont see them winning the title. I think it is going to be Dallas and NY in the championship.

  28. georg says:

    This team looked very good in leg 2 against Columbus and should signal a very good year coming up.

    Still think there are some questions at forward, perhaps that is why we see more players like Arnoux, and maybe Chin getting a look from management.

    Paulo is the player to watch, if he can get some goals this team can go all the way.

  29. Matt says:

    Chin?

  30. Schuler says:

    who’s Chin?

    Schuler (sp?) looks a quality back up to Borchers