With the impending move of The Daily Wiz to the SB Nation network, I decided it was as good a time as any to call upon manager of the Real Salt Lake blog of the network for this week’s version of the Opposing Blogger Interview. I reached out to Denzel Eslinger of RSL Soapbox and he was more than kind enough to fill me in a bit on the latest happening of the defending MLS Cup champions. We exchanged questions in either direction, so take the time to jump over there and see what he was interested in hearing about the Wizards, and fill him in on anything I may have neglected.
Without any further ado, on to the Q&A.
1. With the US national team friendly against Brazil scheduled for this coming Tuesday and Robbie Findley being one of only three forwards named in the squad, one would expect him to not feature in Saturday’s league game. Are you at all worried about your side’s attacking fortitude on Saturday, given you’ll essentially be without a heralded substitute striker in the severe heat in the Midwest of late?
A) Not at all, while I am not sure when Robbie will be heading out to join the USMNT, we know that RSL can score plenty of goals without him, he was gone almost all of May and June, during which the team was 6-0-2 in league play. RSL is one of the deepest teams in MLS with 12 different players having scored goals and 12 different players with assists, including Alvaro Saborio who has 8 goals and 4 assists. Sure I am hoping we can use Robbie for a half, he speed would be a huge advantage with the small pitch at CommunityAmerica, but I am confident we will be able to survive and continue to thrive.
2. With the successes of winning a league title comes the burden, if you will, of representing your league in the continental Champions League. As defending league champions, Salt Lake are automatically through to the group stage. Now that you’ve won an MLS Cup, how do you personally hope to see head coach Jason Kreis balance the two competitions going on at once? Is it a case of “we’ve won MLS, let’s try and win something else”? Any potential adjustments to the gameday roster to accomodate upcoming CCL games?
A) If there is one thing people should know about Jason, it is that he hates to lose, at anything. He is very competitive and that nature has really translated itself to the team as a whole. I think Real Salt Lake is one of the deeper teams in MLS, as we showed in MLS Cup, when we lost two players before the start of the second half. So far this year we have adjusted to the loss of Ned Grabavoy for a month, Kyle Beckerman for two months, Robbie Findley’s time with the USMNT, and even Javier Morales missing several matches. We have 16 players with over 200 minutes of first team MLS action, and that depth will give RSL the ability to deal with the hectic schedule of 14 matches in 54 days. I think the number of players we had out on loan to get minutes will also help out, both of our backup keepers spent time in Charleston, we also had a couple players spend time with AC St. Louis in recent weeks to get some match conditions in. I do expect that as the CCL kicks in that you will see a lineup that will feature a number of different looks, we have 3 very good outside backs, 3 guys who can play d-mid, 5-6 who can play on the outside of the midfield, and 2-3 who can be that creative midfielder, and even at striker we have 3 top guys (Findley, Saborio, Espindola) and off the bench Pablo Campos who got the game winner against KC at CommunityAmerica for RSL last year.
3. Amidst the recent wave of Designated Player signings across MLS, two of the few teams that have not made a significant splash in the summer trasnfer window are Salt Lake and Kansas City. Why no signings, and is this worrisome on your part with fellow league contenders making such noise?
A) I think KC is in a boat where they have a lot of money invested into the building of their new stadium, and with limited income of a small facility it is hard to spend big dollars on a player. That may change for KC next year as they look to fill a new stadium. For RSL, I think it is two-fold, first is that we are the smallest market in the league and while we draw well, we are still as an organization turning the corner to being profitable and able to start paying off our stadium. Second is that I don’t think Jason, Garth(GM) or Bill (president), are convinced that we need to bring in a big name player. We are 10-4-4 with our current roster, we did bring in Saborio in the offseason to fill the shoes of Yura Movsisyian who headed off to Europe. I do believe that we will end up the year with at least one DP, if not two, but I believe it will be new deals for Robbie Findley and/or Alvaro Saborio as RSL look to keep their core of players together.
I am not convinced that big name DP’s make a huge difference in MLS, one only has to look at the loaded LA Galaxy team that RSL beat last year in the MLS Cup. Even with the new rules, having 15-18 solid players is going to be better than having 2-3 stars and only 5-6 solid players to play with them.