SANDY, Utah – In almost every way, Real Salt Lake's 2010 season was magical – except for the ending. But even with that disappointing MLS Cup Playoffs loss to FC Dallas, RSL face what is an unusual offseason for this team: one with nothing in particular to fix or enhance. However, that doesn’t mean that there isn't work to be done. Here's their to-do list of things to accomplish this offseason.
Re-sign Alvaro Saborio (check)
With Robbie Findley out-of-contract and possibly headed to Europe, it was essential that the team find a way to retain the services of their leading scorer. Mission accomplished. Although it took a Designated Player-level package to keep him, the MLS Newcomer of the Year award winner will likely be a mainstay at the RSL forward spot for the next several years.
Keep personnel intact
While most teams rush headlong into the offseason looking forward to the opportunity of making changes and providing much needed improvements for their team, Real Salt Lake were very satisfied with their personnel and wanted to keep the team largely intact. Unfortunately, there were three offseason obstacles to that: the Expansion Draft, contract situations and the salary-cap situation. According to head coach Jason Kreis, they’ve had a dream offseason to this point.
“I feel very fortunate,” he said after only losing David Horst, a seldom-used player, and Findley (a player assumed to be departed anyway) in last month's Expansion Draft. “I feel like we’ve actually improved up to this point,” he added, in reference to the draft-day acquisition of Arturo Alvarez.
[inline_node:322219]Prepare for Champions League
The further along the 2010-11 edition of the CONCACAF Champions League has gone, the greater the importance Real Salt Lake have been placed on it. Part of the reason for being so aggressive in signing Saborío is that the team did not want any delays or challenges which would hinder them for the Feb. 22 first-leg quarterfinal tie against Columbus. The team will begin preparing in earnest for this challenge in late January.
Improve depth and develop youth
During 2010, the team really got a sense for what its younger players could and could not yet do. So RSL will focus on the continued development of the guys who need more experience – whether it’s continuing to work with and mentor young players like Collen Warner (23 years old) and Chris Schuler (24) or getting an extremely young player in 17-year-old Luis Gil some offseason playing and practice time, they’ll be trying to do just that.
In addition, GM Garth Lagerwey says he expects the team to bring several Home Grown prospects into training camp, with the idea of signing one or two of them to the developmental roster in 2011.
While all of this is going on, the RSL-Arizona developmental academy in Casa Grande, Ariz., headed up by former MLSer Greg Vanney, continues to hum along and work on molding the senior-team players of the future.
Come back with renewed drive
The 2010 version of Real Salt Lake was very determined and focused on accomplishing their objectives, both within MLS and the Champions League. But the realities of a 30-game league season, an additional six-game CCL schedule, and a few Open Cup, exhibition and postseason games can be very taxing. Finding a renewed sense of purpose and drive for 2011 may be the most urgent need for the team between now and February.
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