What’s Next For Real Salt Lake Following Unforeseen Playoff Run
SALT LAKE CITY – Real Salt Lake has concluded its 2021 season following a 2-0 loss in the Western Conference Final, despite pundits expecting the ownerless club to finish towards the bottom of the conference prior to the season starting.
It was a wonderful display of leadership, belief, and momentum that provided Real Salt Lake with the chance of contending for a place in the MLS Cup Final.
However, with the season finished, the club still has many questions that require answers ahead of the 2022 campaign.
Firstly, general manager Elliot Fall must make a decision on who the full-time manager will be. He and the front office have had until August 27th to sort through candidates, conduct interviews, and determine the club’s next managerial move. Fall is expected to make the announcement public shortly.
Once the manager is announced the club can begin to plan accordingly.
Many players will require news on their immediate future. Captain Albert Rusnák is a top priority for the club to bring back, but with no ownership at the helm, his salary and signing bonus make for an impossible task.
Therefore, Major League Soccer must provide Real Salt Lake with ownership. It would simply be unruly by Major League Soccer to allow another offseason to go by without Real Salt Lake having discretionary spending funds.
Assuming ownership takes control, Real Salt Lake will have the financial stability to make adequate roster decisions.
Rusnák’s immediate future is certainly the priority and understandably so but the club also has many decisions to make on squad players. Guys like Justin Portillo, Tate Schmitt, Andrew Putna, Ashtone Morgan, Jeizon Ramirez, Douglas Martinez, Chris Garcia and Donny Toia. All players mentioned did not contribute often to the 2021 season, they predominantly sat on the bench or in a suite watching from the stands. By no means is their future set at the club.
Anderson Julio is on loan from Liga MX club Atlético San Luis but Real Salt Lake can issue a buy-out clause if they want to keep Julio permanently. However, KSL Sports has been informed that the buy-out clause in Julio’s contract is in the millions of dollars. Julio came off the bench under Mastroeni and personally changed games. His impact was incredible. But will the front office be able to justify his impact off the bench and eat the lucrative buy-out price?
Justin Meram and Everton Luiz are also out of contract. Meram’s impact off the bench alongside Julio was pivotal in Real Salt Lake’s playoff run. The front office will likely offer Meram another contract with his role changing to more of an impact bench player than a starter. Meram is currently on $500K annually which will likely drop with his change in role.
Luiz, on the other hand, makes $1.16 million annually. As good as Luiz can be, his lack of discipline will force the club to either sign him to another contract on far less money or choose to not re-sign him and go after somebody else to help solidify the midfield.
While signing and waiving existing players will be an integral part of the off-season. The club will also be required to sign new faces.
Position players of need include a holding midfielder, a left-back, another center-back, a winger, and a striker. However, the positional needs of players will rely on who the new manager is and the formation that they would like to play.
Regardless, the club has a lot of work to get done before the 2022 season commences. Players report for pre-season in roughly six weeks’ time. The need for ownership has never been higher.
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