HERRIMAN, UT (Thursday, February 23, 2023) – RSL Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni’s side is back in Utah following a six-week preseason that saw the Club post three wins, two draws and outscore five opponents 13-3 in various California and Arizona-based scrimmages prior to this week’s kickoff of the 2023 Major League Soccer regular season, RSL’s 19th in Club history. The 2023 MLS regular season kicks off on Saturday at Vancouver.
Back on January 6, RSL kicked off its 2023 preseason with 45 players in camp, a total which did not include two international additions – Colombian attacker Andrés Gómez (U22 initiative signing from Millonarios F.C.) and TAM defender Brayan Vera (America de Cali). Gómez – signed on Jan. 11 – joined the team prior to its Tucson stint, while Vera – signed last Monday – is expected to arrive in Utah prior to the team’s March 11 home opener.
Twenty of the 26 returning Claret-and-Cobalt players from last season played a total of nearly 27,000 minutes across a 34-game MLS regular-season campaign that saw RSL (12W-11L-11T) amass 47 points and capture the 7th and final Western Conference playoff seed, reaching the postseason for the fourth time in the last five years and the 12th occasion in the last 15 seasons.
A season ago, Real Salt Lake captured the full three points on “Decision Day” to snare the 7th and final Western Conference seed, the Claret-and-Cobalt qualifying for the MLS Cup Playoffs for the 12th time in its last 15 seasons (DNQ 2015, 2017, 2020). For the second consecutive year – both under Mastroeni’s supervision – RSL utilized “Decision Day” drama and a “must-win” scenario to advance to the postseason for a fourth occasion in the last five years, despite three different ownership situations, three different head coaches and three different postseason formats during that period.
Visit www.RSL.com for 2023 season tickets at America First Field in Sandy, with RSL’s 2023 home opener scheduled for Sat., March 11 against Austin FC. The Utah side looks to build upon last year’s 17 consecutive MLS sellouts and a NEW Club-high average attendance of 20,470, RSL’s standard after 18 MLS seasons. During the 2021 and 2022 seasons, Real Salt Lake has posted a 17-7-9 (W-L-T) reg. season mark in Sandy, one of the League’s most dominant home records.
Several presumed starters return for 2023, including team MVP Justen Glad and “Iron Man” GK Zac MacMath, who became the first-ever player in RSL’s 18 seasons to appear for every one of the Club’s 3,060 reg. season minutes. Veteran DF Marcelo Silva also returns for 2023, following a year that saw him wear the Captain’s armband 31 times in 2022 in place of veteran Damir Kreilach, who is seeking to find his 2021 form for a strong return in his sixth season on the Wasatch Front.
Other long-time MLS veterans back for the 2023 campaign include winger Justin Meram, MF Pablo Ruiz and MF Scott Caldwell, along with FW Rubio Rubin – unavailable for Saturday at Vancouver due to the ejection last October at Austin in RSL’s final match of 2022. Backup GK Tomás Gomez returns for a second season in Utah, as does last year’s rookie standout, Jasper Löffelsend. Along with 2022 midseason additions FW Jefferson Savarino, U.S. U-20 starlet Diego Luna, MF Braian Ojeda and DF Bryan Oviedo, the formerly Mexican-based Ecuadoran FW Anderson Julio also returns to Utah in 2023, for his third season in Utah. FW Danny Musovski, who has battled various injuries during his seven months in Utah, began to emerge late in preseason to push for 2023 minutes as well.
Returning RSL Homegrown players joining Glad – who will make his 200th career MLS appearance during the first few months of his 10th season with RSL – and Luna, whose early-season focus is split for the FIFA World Youth Championship – include: last year’s RSL Defender of the Year, Andrew Brody, who played all but 100 minutes of the 2022 reg. season on either the left or right sides; D/M Bode Hidalgo, DF Erik Holt, DF Zach Farnsworth, FW Axel Kei, MF Jude Wellings and GK Gavin Beavers, along with recently-signed homegrown DF Delentz Pierre and DF Luis Rivera. Currently rostered RSL Homegrowns on loan for 2023 include DF Jaziel Orozco (Santos Laguna, Liga MX) and MF Julio Benitez (Forward Madison, USL League One).
December’s top two MLS SuperDraft selections have arrived in Utah, as the Club’s pair of Generation adidas signings – FW Ilijah Paul and MF Bertin Jacquesson – should be comforted by local ties. Former University of Washington standout Paul briefly attended the RSL Academy during the 2020 calendar year, while Jacquesson was a University of Pittsburgh teammate in 2020/21 with last year’s surprise rookie, Löffelsend.
One non-roster invitee – MF Moses Nyeman, a 19-year-old Liberian international and former D.C. United player on loan from fellow Blitzer club SK Beveren (Belgian A2) – seized the opportunity to impress, earning a season-long loan deal with his January/February exploits. Several other players who saw time with RSL during the six-week preseason could likely train and compete for time with the Real Monarchs in advance of the USSF Division 3 team’s second campaign in MLS NEXT Pro, kicking off in late March for Head Coach Jamison Olave and his staff. Mastroeni and his staff – which continues to include assistant Brett Jacobs, in addition to Matt Taylor, GK coach “Nacho” Hernandez and former Monarchs assistant Joel DeLass – now look ahead to the Club’s 2023 MLS season opener at Vancouver on Saturday and RSL’s America First Field season debut on March 11 against Austin.
LAST WEEKEND: In its final scrimmage ahead of Real Salt Lake’s 2023 season opener Saturday at Vancouver – incidentally the site of Mastroeni’s first game at the RSL helm back in August, 2021, as well as DF Justen Glad’s first-ever MLS appearance in May of 2015 – to kick off the Claret-and-Cobalt’s 19th campaign, RSL wrapped up its 2023 Major League Soccer preseason with a 3-0 victory on Saturday in Tucson against fellow MLS side Chicago Fire. A first-half goal from MF Braian Ojeda and late first-half strikes from FW Jefferson Savarino – on assists from MF Maikel Chang, Captain Damir Kreilach and DF Andrew Brody – held up GK Zac MacMath’s clean sheet.
Across five preseason scrimmages, RSL posted three wins and two draws, amassing a cumulative 13-3 goal differential against three MLS sides – LAFC, Kansas City and Chicago – and a pair of USL Championship teams – Sacramento and El Paso. Real Salt Lake’s current roster, listed alphabetically by position, is as follows:
Goalkeepers (3): Gavin Beavers, Zac MacMath, Tomás Gomez
Defenders (11): Andrew Brody, Zack Farnsworth, Justen Glad, Bode Hidalgo, Erik Holt, Jaziel Orozco (on loan), Bryan Oviedo, Delentz Pierre, Luis Rivera, Marcelo Silva, Brayan Vera
Midfielders (10): Julio Benitez (on loan), Scott Caldwell, Maikel Chang, Damir Kreilach, Jasper Löffelsend, Diego Luna, Moses Nyeman, Braian Ojeda, Pablo Ruiz, Jude Wellings
Forwards (10): Andrés Gómez, Anderson Julio, Bertin Jacquesson, Axel Kei, Joni Menendez (on loan), Justin Meram, Danny Musovski, Ilijah Paul, Rubio Rubin, Jefferson Savarino