What did our beloved Claret and Cobalt do the evening of March, 10th? They did what they trained for. They did what they most wanted. They did what they are capable of. They “came to score” (The Aggrolites).
Today's first post of the day is a guest piece from Trevor Brady. He can be found pontificating on world football — but especially Real Salt Lake — on Twitter at @trevor_brady.
There are an awful lot of owners of football clubs in the world that would have you believe that money buys you trophies. There is some truth to this, and Chelsea is a popular example of this. Since Roman Abramovich took over the club in 2003 and bought over £100 million worth of players, they have won three League Titles (second place four times), three FA Cups, two League cups, two Community Shields, and made a Champions League Final appearance, effectively doubling the size of their trophy case in less than 10 years. Real Madrid, Manchester City, and Paris Saint-Germain are other examples of teams who have built their squads almost purely out of money recently and found some level of success.
In MLS, this kind of spending is limited by the salary cap created to give teams a fair playing field. Rich teams can't build strong teams by overspending, poor teams won't go broke trying to catch up to them. This model has worked for many years in other American sports leagues like the NBA, NFL, and MLB. In all of these leagues, and especially in MLS, there is a question that every team must face. Do we get a couple big time players (designated players, or DPs) and a bunch of nobodies and hope the names are good enough to bring success to the club by themselves? Do we get a bunch of above-average guys to try to get a collective team talent level that is higher than one or two big names? Looking across the league, there are many ways teams try to answer these questions, with most teams trying a combo of both scenarios. One of either a DP goalscorer or a DP defender to make them more powerful where they are otherwise weak, then finish out the rest of the roster with a combination of league veterans and rookies. Very few teams are without at least one DP, and very few have more than two. (Ed.: The league maximum is three, and the third invokes a "luxury tax". Also, I've always wanted to insert an editor's comment.)
This is where Real Salt Lake is different. Real Salt Lake only has one DP in Alvaro Saborio, and he is really only a DP because of a transfer fee the team had to pay his former club to bring him to Salt Lake. His wages are not as high as other DPs like Andres Mendoza of Columbus Crew, who made $500,000 last year, or Landon Donovan of LA, who tipped the scales at $2,300,000 in wages. Most teams have a clear starting 11, but Salt Lake does not. Most teams have a player or two who would be what I call a "jersey guy". This is the guy that every fan wants to get a jersey of. These are Thierry Henry, David Beckham, Brian Ching, Chris Wondolowski, or (until recently in Philly) Sebastian Le Toux. These guys are all the "stars" or "fan favorites" of the team. They could also be the guy the whole team is built around. Salt Lake doesn't have one of these either. There is not a player that this team is built around, or relies on. This team has what other teams lack: true depth.
If we had to field Arnoux and Bonfigli in a match, based on their performance in preseason, we could still see two or three goals in any given game. A midfield of Enzo Martinez, Nico Muniz, Johnny Steele, and Yordany Alvarez could hold its own. A backline of Diogo de Almeida, Chris Schuler, Leone Cruz, and Terukazu Tanaka could be a starting lineup on a few MLS teams.
Now, I am by no means saying that these guys are ideal starters...but that's our worst case. Our second-worst center back is Chris Schuler. Our worst holding mid is Yordany Alvarez. Our worst attacking mid is Enzo Martinez. You see my point, I hope.
In the two games we've played to start the season, we have been without four of our normal starters: Nat Borchers, Will Johnson, Javier Morales, and Alvaro Saborio. If you're keeping score at home, thats two players that are starters for their respective national team, one league MVP candidate, and one MLS Defender of the Year candidate. Losses like that would cripple most teams in the MLS. I don't think I'm alone in saying we haven't suffered through the loss.We beat LA 3-1 at Home Depot Center, where they hadn't lost since 2010. We also beat an admittedly lackluster New York team 2-0 at home.
The strength of the chain is determined by the weakest link, not the strongest. This is most evident in LA, where over the past five season, it seems their success has been based on the health of Landon Donovan and David Beckham. (Fun fact, since 2007, LA has made the playoffs fewer times than RSL, despite having Donovan and Beckham on the roster since then.)
I can't find a particularly weak link in the Real Salt Lake chain. And that bodes well for a team many said would be "rebuilding" this year after the losses we sustained in preseason.