Sunday, March 15, 2009

Final Thoughts from Charleston

Since my flight has been delayed, I thought I'd throw together some final thoughts from Charleston. Several days worth of thoughts actually:

  • RSL will be competitive thsi year, that was never in doubt. Do they have what it takes to get to the MLS Cup? That is the question. Some positive signs were seen in this tournament, but it was still just preseason.
  • I asked Beckerman what he thought the biggest thing required for the team to be successful this season, and his response was "score some goals." Simple and accurate.
  • Robbie Findley was extremely active against Toronto FC. He was big in the air winning a number of headers. He worked well with Movsisyan, and he had a great assist to Mathis for the 2nd goal. If he can contribute that kind of effort on a consistent basis, then the team will be fine at the forward spot.
  • Yura looks ready to continue where he left off. He also seems very focused on improving his game, becoming a better passer and finishing his chances. He wants to be a complete player.
  • Mathis looks good. I was starting to doubt his part among the starting XI, but he played really well in Charleston. He always seemed to do well on the ball, and more importantly he was always in the right spots on the field. He also looks quite fit despite coming off of knee surgery. He may be especially valuable as a 3rd forward if Escalada doesn't work out.
  • Borchers continued problems with his right ankle after bone spur surgery is a big concern to me.
  • Fortunately David Horst looks vastly improved. He manhandled Danny Dichio which isn't an easy thing to do. He had a couple of nice recovery plays, and he had some good distribution out of the back.
  • I fell in line with everybody else in assuming that the team needed some wide midfielders who could drive in crosses, but I had a conversation with Coach Kreis who correctly pointed out that the style this team plays is a different style than that. The diamond midfield with players on either side tucking in and constantly moving doesn't require that and the use of wing-backs pushing forward to provide that width allows more players to effectively get into the attack. Of course, it would still be nice to have options.
  • Will Johnson is perfect for that style of play. Ned Grabavoy could be good for this as well, but has struggled to get integrated at this point. I had a conversation with him and he's aware of that. He feels that coming in so late takes a bit longer to get in the mix with everyone who already has a routine and rapport with each other.
  • Grabavoy was "surprised" when he was waived. Up until that point he was told that he was part of San Jose's plans.
  • Beckerman was "surprised" to hear that RSL did not have to give up anything to get Grabavoy and feels that he will be a key part of the team this year.
  • Cap hit for acquisition of Morales will extend to next season as well. But cap hits for Olave and Borchers are reduced or gone.
  • Contracts can be structured to "spread" the acquisition costs over multiple years. This creates two sets of numbers for a player. Their salary and their "cap number". In other words it's impossible for you and me to track.
  • Buyout of Morales was a "no brainer" no matter what the cost was. For Olave it was more based on potential.
  • RSL 2009 - "it's not just a core, it's an identity". More on this later.
  • Having spent ALOT of time around the team, and some time around TFC and DC United, my impression is that this is a special group and more of a family than the other teams. It's not just hot air that comes from the FO - it's real.
  • Ned Grabavoy said that was his first impression of the team as well. He indicated that it's unique.
  • This coaching staff works hard. I saw it first hand. Outside of practices and games they always seem to be doing something related to the team.
  • Those "in the know", and there were alot of them here in Charleston for this tournament, appear to have alot of respect for what Real Salt Lake is doing.
I'm sure I'll remember other tidbits later, but that's a collection of thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head over the last several days.