Real Salt Lake Growing Into MLS Cup Contenders Under Mastroeni
SALT LAKE CITY – Real Salt Lake is quickly regaining league-wide respect following its start to the 2022 season.
Throughout the opening 13 games of the season, Real Salt Lake finds itself in the 4th position in the Western Conference and just 4 points behind conference leaders LAFC. Real Salt Lake has secured 9 of its 22 points on the road despite the daunting road slate. The most recent 2-1 victory against Montreal has solidified Real Salt Lake as an MLS Cup contender.
Furthermore, Real Salt Lake has found success despite being without its 2022 captain and 2021 MLS All-Star Damir Kreilach who has struggled with injury to begin the 2022 season. Kreilach has managed to play just 298 minutes. He has started and played all 90 minutes on three occasions and has come off the bench in two games.
Mastroeni The Developer
Instead, manager Pablo Mastroeni has relied on a group of players that are growing in chemistry. Pablo Ruiz is having a breakout season and is in the midst of taking the next step in his career. The 23-year-old is statistically one of the best holding midfielders in the league and is showcasing his ability to control games with his left foot. His positioning defensively is making life challenging for the opposition to score, while his ability to play teammates into space with long through balls through the air and on the ground is opening up new avenues to goal. Ruiz has been the best player for Real Salt Lake in 2022.
Bobby Wood and Sergio Córdova are developing a potent strike power and are continuing to learn each other’s strengths. Wood is healthy for the first time in multiple years and is holding the ball up while also turning and facing the goal causing a lot of stress on opposing defenders. Córdova, on the other hand, is utilizing his speed, size, and touch to attack defenders. Last game against Montreal, Córdova scored the game-winner in the 66th minute after rocketing his shot into the bottom left corner.
Zac MacMath has beaten out David Ochoa and is playing arguably the best football of his career while the backline of Aaron Herrera, Marcelo Silva, Justen Glad, and newly extended Andrew Brody are enjoying a second consecutive season alongside one another.
The impressive start to the season comes off the back of last year’s Western Conference Final playoff run where Real Salt Lake shocked the league by beating Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City before losing to Portland despite barely scraping into the playoffs with a last-second Kreilach goal on the final regular-season date of the season.
Mastroeni is growing as a manager under the guidance of new ownership. His ability to unify his players and instill a belief within the group has been captivating to follow. Now, Mastroeni must advance Real Salt Lake from a dangerous middle-of-the-table team to a powerhouse while also maintaining the hunger and fight shown over the past calendar year.
Fortunately, the roster will soon add Jefferson Savarino to its ranks as the Venezualan is expected to join RSL within a matter of days. He is likely to be available this weekend as RSL hosts Houston Dynamo at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Savarino’s inclusion will create added security on the wing. So far, Justin Meram and Maikel Chang have performed admirably, but with Savarino now in the fold, Mastroeni will be forced into making uncomfortable decisions as he attempts to create greater competition for playing time.
Real Salt Lake will host Houston at Rio Tinto Stadium at 7:30 on Saturday, May 28.
The fixture will be available to stream for free via the KSL Sports and KSL 5 TV apps or on KSL Sports dot com.
Real Salt Lake Scoreboard
Real Salt Lake Team Leaders
Real Salt Lake Standings