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Western Conference Preview: Real Salt Lake

What can we expect in 2016 from the team that finished in second-to-last place in the Western Conference in 2015?

Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

RSL has replaced striker Sebastian Jaime, who scored 5 times in 20 appearances, with returning player Yura Movsisyan. Movsisyan scored 16 goals in 55 appearances for Real Salt Lake from 2008-2009. Since then, he has played for Randers, Krasnodar, and Spartak Moscow. In 2012-2013, Movsisyan led the Russian Premier League in goals with 13 and scored a total of 48 goals in 112 games in Russia. He also has 10 goals in 35 appearances for the Armenian National Team.

Salt Lake has brought back fullback Chris Wingert to provide depth. Demar Phillips and Tony Beltran are still expected to start at left and right back, respectively. Stephen "Sunny" Sunday Obayan, a Nigerian defensive midfielder, has been added to assist Kyle Beckerman and his declining ability to cover the width of the field. It's unclear whether Sunny has won the starting role over Luke Mulholland. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando is still one of the best in the league, and he can keep RSL in tight games. Questions still persist on the RSL backline where another CB is needed to replace the shaky Aaron Maund. In preseason, RSL is already leaking goals.

The attacking midfield trio of Joao Plata, Javier Morales, and Juan "Burrito" Martinez appears to be set in stone. At age 36, Morales cannot be relied upon to play every game in the season. When he's out, we should see 20-year old Salt Lake homegrown Jordan Allen, who is intriguing and unproven.

Movsisyan fills RSL's biggest hole and will be relied upon to score 15 goals. From his pedigree, it appears that he might be able to do it. Morales and Beckerman are another year older and require quality replacements that can spell them. Plata and Martinez must step up and provide more than the sparse 5 goals for which they combined in 2015.

Bottom Line: It is unlikely that all of these things will fall into place, and RSL will not reach the playoffs for the second year in a row.

Salt Lake Projected Strongest Lineup: