Chris Wingert

2016 ASA PREVIEW: REAL SALT LAKE by Coleman Larned

The abysmal 2015 season for RSL was predicated on the failure to adapt to a new formation and lack of offensive depth. In Jeff Cassar's second season in charge of RSL, the team managed to compile anemic attacking numbers. Transitioning from a 4-4-2 diamond formation that seemingly defined RSL through the Jason Kreis era, the new shape exposed some players that were previously pivotal components to RSL's consistent success in the past.

Both Kyle Beckerman and Joao Plata were sluggish to figure out how to thrive in a new shape and struggled with their new identity, but for different reasons. As Beckerman ages, the expectation is that his motor will slow, his poor first step and general quickness will get even worse, but his game IQ and game management skills will improve. The issue with the attempted 4-3-3 shape is that the single, central midfielder is burdened with a more intense physical workload because of the vertical space that is now only occupied in front by the central forward in the middle channel. Beckerman struggled with the spatial requirements, his significant numbers have been declining for the past three seasons, and was ultimately exposed in the middle of the park.

Set for another terrorizing season in the final third, Plata came back from being injured during the beginning of the season and never found his feet in the new spacing. Although he seemed to thrive in open space, the lack of connection and compactness saw him struggling on isolated islands through many of his appearances.

Our projections for 2016 after the jump.

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