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Freddy Juarez Has A Dilemma To Solve Throughout Second Half Of Season

Photo courtesy: Real Salt Lake

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Real Salt Lake manager Freddy Juarez has a good dilemma on his hands as he has multiple wingers and only two starting spots to fill. How will he handle the controversy throughout the second half of the season?

The Wingers

RSL has a number of capable wingers on its roster but only two players per game will receive starting minutes. Captain Albert Rusnák has been playing slightly out of position on the left-wing as a result of doing what’s best for the team but in the last game against Colorado proved that his best soccer is played in a more central position.

Jonathan Menéndez debuted for RSL against Colorado and looked more than comfortable on the right-wing. His 15 minutes were filled with exciting runs, elite passes, and poise on the ball. Anderson Julio is always the fastest player on the pitch when he plays and has proven to be a weapon for RSL in his short time with the club.

Maikel Chang has also impacted RSL playing on the right-wing as he likes to cut in onto his preferred left foot and attack the opposing goal, he did exactly that when he scored the game’s second goal in the 29th minute on July 21st against the LA Galaxy at home.

RSL also has veteran MLS player Justin Meram to utilize on the wing. Meram has played well for RSL when given the chance this season and still has plenty to offer on either the left or right-wing.

The Answer

So how does Juarez handle the influx of wingers on the roster?

The simple answer is to assume that Juarez will rotate the wingers and play the players with the freshest legs or the players who are most in form. But by doing that he also risks making certain players unhappy.

Every winger on RSL’s roster is capable of starting every game.

By giving Rusnák the captain’s armband at the start of the season the club put itself in a precarious position. Juarez likely feels the need to start Rusnák in most games now that he proudly wears the captain’s armband.

Fortunately, RSL’s roster is filled with more than one leader. Kreilach was once the captain of his former club Union Berlin in Germany’s Second Division. Striker Bobby Wood, albeit new to RSL, has played a lot of soccer at a very high level and has experience dealing with different situations. Defender Justen Glad was announced as a vice-captain prior to the 2021 MLS season starting. Right-back Aaron Herrera is often seen directing traffic on game day and is a highly respected teammate by his peers.

Captain Rusnák & His Role

Rusnák may be the captain, but by no means does that warrant him a starting role in every game for RSL.

With how many wingers Juarez has at his disposal, it would be foolish to suggest that Rusnák must start every game from here on out.

Given the current status of RSL and its position in the Western Conference, Juarez must handle the controversy carefully.

Rotating players through the wing may mean other starting-caliber players start on the bench, and if one of those players is Rusnák then so be it. The decision is an attempt to better the team and give RSL the best chance of winning.

One thing is for certain, given the five-substitution rule, every winger should still see ample playing time.

Juarez has difficult decisions to make going forward, the headaches that he will personally face from a personnel standpoint is a luxury, however. Very few opposing MLS managers have the depth on the wing that RSL does.

Moreover, RSL has more away games than home fixtures remaining on the calendar and currently sits one point clear of the playoff cut-line. Meaning, for RSL to make the post-season, they will have to find a way to pick up points on the road which has historically been difficult in MLS.

Healthy players and a frequent rotation will likely assist in the clubs short-term goal of making the post-season.

Next Fixture

RSL will head on the road and play the Houston Dynamo this upcoming Saturday, July 31st with kickoff scheduled for 6 p.m.

Houston is currently three points worse than RSL in 2021 and two spots below them in 9th in the Western Conference.

The fixture will be available to stream for free via the KSL Sports & KSL 5 TV apps or on KSL Sports dot com.