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What Lineup Gives Real Salt Lake The Best Chance Of Winning When The Season Returns?

Photo courtesy: Real Salt Lake

SANDY, Utah – Let’s have some fun, shall we. It is time to put your coaching hat on and make some moves. If you were Freddy Juarez, what would your ideal starting XI be for Real Salt Lake when the season gets up and running again?

On the latest episode of The Lion’s Den, Spencer Warne and I shared our opinions with our listeners.

Tom’s Starting XI

GK: Zac MacMath – although he is yet to prove himself in RSL colors, MacMath is the number GK choice for me. Andrew Putna and David Ochoa still need some work on the training pitch before their number is called into a full-time role.

LB: Donny Toia – Toia is serviceable. RSL tried to upgrade themselves at the LB spot during the offseason on a number of different occasions but were unable to do so. Hence why Toia gets the nod after signing a one-year extension during the offseason.

CB: Nedum Onuoha & Justen Glad – Glad and Onuoha are who we saw back there for the majority of last year. However, to start 2020 Juarez opted for Marcelo Silva over Glad. I think that will change once the season returns. Onuoha is the best CB RSL has and Glad is the future.

RB: Aaron Herrera – Herrera is certainly the clear cut choice under Juarez, and so he should be. “If Herrera can continue to grow and develop, you can expect him to take his game to South America, Central America and maybe even Europe,” Warne said during the podcast.

CM: Everton Luiz & Damir Kreilach – Luiz was the best player for RSL during his inaugural season with the club in 2019. He is a menace and has a large skillset. Kreilach is best suited to play alongside him as it gives the Croatian freedom to push forward when RSL is attacking and hopefully get on the end of deliveries into the box. Much like we saw in the 94th minute against the New York Red Bulls in the home opener.

CAM: Albert Rusnak – Rusnak is up there with Javier Morales when it comes to being one of the RSL greats to be able to have an impact on games. When Rusnak can find the ball in space, RSL is a formidable force. His ability to play other attackers in and behind the defense while also penetrating the back four with the ball at his feet makes for a very dangerous scenario for opposing teams.

LW/RW: Corey Baird & Jeizon Ramirez – Baird and Ramirez can play on either side. Although, I would prefer to see Baird play the majority of his minutes on the right-hand side and Ramirez on the left. Baird has a big tank, he can run all day long, wearing opposing full-backs down in the process. While the ability of Ramirez is still unknown, the word from the club is that he will be a sensation. Much like his fellow countrymen, Jefferson Savarino was only Ramirez is younger. He just turned 19.

ST: Douglas Martinez – I know, you guys are probably wondering why I didn’t pick Giuseppe Rossi or Sam Johnson. Well, for me it comes down to who can offer more and the way RSL like to play with their wingers attacking down both flanks, I feel as though Martinez can have a bigger impact. When he came off the bench against the Red Bulls the team all of a sudden looked composed. Rossi is the most technically gifted player RSL has ever had, while Johnson does not miss out on many scoring opportunities, but Martinez has the ability to do everything for RSL if they give him the minutes.

Warne’s Changes

Warne did not hate my lineup. In fact, he liked it, believe it or not. However, he would make a few changes and they would all occur in the attacking third.

Instead of playing Ramirez, Warne opted for Justin Meram who is a seasoned MLS veteran and has proven his worth over the years, specifically from 2011 to 2017 when he notched 188 appearances and scored 40 goals for the Columbus Crew.

Warne wants to also wait on giving Martinez the starting number nine role. He would prefer to see Rossi handle that position.

“I am not afraid to go on the record and say that Rossi is the most technically gifted player RSL has ever had on their roster. Javier Morales was amazing and Albert Rusnak can do some special things if he continues his trajectory, but Rossi’s ability to take over a game is world-class,” Warne said.

The Podcast

The Lion’s Den is an insider’s look at the Claret-and-Cobalt, hosted by KSL Sports personality Tom Hackett and RSL radio personality Spencer “The Guv” Warne. The podcast features exclusive access to players and Real Salt Lake personnel. Hackett and Warne talk soccer both inside and outside the state of Utah, while discussing aspects of the game both on and off the pitch. Join Hackett and ‘Spenno’ each week as they talk all things RSL.

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Tom Hackett is a Utah and Real Salt Lake Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the It’s Utah’s World Podcast (Utah Football themed) and The Lion’s Den Podcast (Real Salt Lake themed). Follow him on Twitter: @TomCantHackett.