Real Salt Lake Will Rely Heavily On Center Backs In 2019

Feb 26, 2019, 4:30 PM | Updated: 4:33 pm
Marcelo Silva #30 of Real Salt Lake directs the ball during the International friendly game against...
Marcelo Silva #30 of Real Salt Lake directs the ball during the International friendly game against Manchester United at Rio Tinto Stadium on July 17, 2017 in Sandy, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Real Salt Lake enters the season with the strongest and most experienced group of center backs in franchise history. With the upcoming 2019 season only days away, a big storyline will be how does Mike Petke utilize the defensive monsters he has at his disposal?

Between Marcelo Silva, Justin Glad and Nedum Onuoha there have been 701 games of professional football played between them. That is a lot of football.

So, how does Petke keep all three of them happy? After all, there are only two center back slots in Petke’s formation.

First, we need to understand where each player is in his career.

Center Backs Are Critical To RSL’s Defensive Strategy

Long story short, you have three center backs that could all be starting on other MLS clubs. Silva and Onuoha are towards the back end of their careers. Glad, on the other hand, is only starting.

With the depth in the position, Petke may use a number of different strategies throughout the upcoming season. Surely there will be a rotation system in which all three play a fair amount of minutes. The most important factor for Petke will be keeping them all healthy.

Onuoha said the entire team had bought into the defensive mindset.

“From day one we have tried to work on whole defensive mindset, not just the back four and it has been good,” he said.

Silva is 29 years old and has had his fair share of injuries. Last year, Silva, dealt with groin strains that hampered him throughout the season.

Onuoha is 32 years old and has done a fantastic job looking after his body. The worst injury Onuoha suffered was a hamstring tear that sidelined him 3 months back in September of 2017 when he was captaining Queens Park Rangers.

Onuoha spoke on his leadership qualities and how he intends on helping the likes of Justin Glad and Erik Holt.

“You have been around the game for so long that you do have lessons and things that you can say to other people,” he said at training Tuesday. “The chances are something that’s happening on the field I have probably seen before, Marcelo has probably seen it before, so you share those experiences with people.”

Justin Glad on the other hand is 21 years old and has his best football ahead of him. He has only suffered one major injury to his knee that kept him out for most of the second half of the 2017 season.

They Shall Not Be Forgotten

RSL has two other center backs on the roster in Nick Besler and Erik Holt. Besler has played most of his career roaming the middle of the park and Holt is entering his first professional season after finishing his college days with UCLA.

Besler will get minutes throughout the course of the season. He has acted as a steady backup when injuries occur to starting players.

Real Salt Lake color analyst Brian Dunseth said playing time isn’t guaranteed.

“Like we saw at the end of last season, nobody is a guaranteed starter at center back for Real Salt Lake this season,” he said. “It won’t just be about the performances on the weekend that determine who plays. It’s who earns their spot day in and day out during training sessions.”

This Saturday, Real Salt Lake open their season away from home against the Houston Dynamo at 4 pm MT. You can watch the game with fellow RSL fans at Beer Bar!

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Real Salt Lake Will Rely Heavily On Center Backs In 2019