As the weekend approaches here, we’ve brought in a fellow SBN blog to help us preview this weekend’s FC Dallas game.
Today we welcome Lucas Miller from RSL Soapbox to discuss the Homegrown-heavy RSL squad that has started off the new season with a 2-1-1 record. (Note: you’ll be able to see our answers to their questions by clicking that link to their site!)
BDS: RSL has gotten off to a pretty decent start in 2021. How has the team looked overall and what has stood out in those early games?
RSLS: The start to 2021 for Real Salt Lake has certainly exceeded expectations, but you have to keep in mind most pundits said RSL would finish 27th in the league. The team has struggled for years with consistent attackers, but we’re seeing a real spark up top with Rubio Rubin and Anderson Julio. Those two have provided 5 goals, one of which was an incredible bicycle.
The team has struggled in defense, keeping just one clean sheet so far. That game was a very dull 0-0 draw against Nashville SC last weekend, but overall the backline is the weakest spot on the field. 20-year-old goalkeeper David Ochoa has done well given his age, yet he’s still prone to the kind of mistakes you might expect from a young keeper. RSL is not a team with much depth at the moment. Spots 12-18 are largely players who have come up through the academy to USL pipeline, and while they deserve a shot, those guys tend to be a step down from the starting XI. With an injury to three key starters in midfielder Everton Luiz, center back Marcelo Silva, and right back Aaron Herrera, we were able to see players like Andrew Brody, Erik Holt, and Nick Besler get regular minutes through the last few games. Brody has particularly impressed.
BDS: Who were some key additions in the offseason that FC Dallas fans need to know about for this weekend’s game?
RSLS: Anderson Julio and Rubio Rubin have been the best new players to join the team. Julio has 2 goals and Rubin has 3 goals, including one goal of the week, and 2 assists. Rubio Rubin had seen some time with the US Men’s National Team under Jurgen Klinsmann. He bounced around Europe and Liga MX before landing with Landon Donovan’s San Diego Loyal last season where he had an incredible 5 games. Reportedly Donovan thinks very highly of Rubio but it still felt like a risky signing for RSL. They had a similar signing last year with Giuseppe Rossi but that clearly did not work out.
Anderson Julio had been linked with RSL over the past few seasons, but the transfer never came. He joined Liga MX side San Luis but has seen very little time with them, so this move also felt like a risk. So far he’s proven himself to be very fast and has good service.
RSL have lacked in the attack since 2015, which is an incredibly long time to go without addressing an issue like that. Under owner Dell Loy Hansen, the front office often had to go after players on a free transfer, so they ended up with players like Alfredo Ortuno who never contributed in a meaningful way. Outside those Anderson and Rubio, no new signings came in during the offseason that have had an impact. It’s much of the same core from 2020, but with a few more coming up from the Monarchs. RSL have three more players coming this season in forward Bobby Wood, winger Jonny Menendez, and an unknown center back. Those players should boost RSL’s fortunes for the season, but none will be present for this game.
BDS: Since this is being dubbed the Academy Derby or the Homegrown Derby, which RSL HGPs do need to keep an eye out for in this game? Are any in line for an overseas move any time soon?
RSLS: Real’s last game against Nashville saw a homegrown goalkeeper and an all homegrown back four. We’re likely to see the return of Marcelo Silva at his center back spot, which would mean HGP Erik Holt steps out of the starting XI, but other than that, and perhaps a swap of either Toia or Brody, both of whom are HGPs, for Herrera, the team should probably have 5 HGPs on the field.
Of the current academy products, there are three that stand out. Aaron Herrera is one of the best players for RSL and he’s realistically the most likely to get a move overseas. After the retirement of club legend Tony Beltran, it seemed like a big role to fill, but Aaron has quickly proven himself. Keeper David Ochoa is the heir apparent to Nick Rimando, and while he hasn’t been perfect, he’s done incredibly well for a 20-year-old keeper playing at this level. Lastly, Andrew Brody had a long route to get to the MLS level. He was an RSL academy player, then went to Louisville for college, saw some time with Orlando City’s U-23s, joined the Real Monarchs, moved overseas to play for Pinzgau Saalfelden in the Austrian third division, rejoined the Monarchs, won the USL Championship, and has been an unexpected but welcome addition this season.