Soccer MLS

Real Salt Lake’s 5 Key Players to Their 2014 MLS Season

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5 Key Players to RSL's 2014 Season

5 Key Players to RSL's 2014 Season
Casey Sapio - USA TODAY Sports

It is now time for Real Salt Lake to forget about exceeding expectations last season and prepare to repeat much of the success. Bringing back a large core of its team will help them make a run to the playoffs. Even under new coach Jeff Cassar, the team is bigger than the name on the jersey. So while this post is about the key individuals for RSL, expect the game plan to be about executing as a whole.

When the starting lineup is named this coming week, the names will be very familiar. The returners bring back all but two regular season goals from last year. Alvaro Saborio will be starting up top but is one of the players RSL will lose to World Cup duty. Joao Plata will continue to be a game changer whether he starts or not.

The game plan will stay the same under Cassar as the diamond formation runs the midfield. Ned Grabavoy and Kyle Beckerman will have similar responsibilities from box to box. Luke Mulholland has also played well in the preseason to add depth. The back line should continue to be physical with Tony Beltran providing timely runs from the wings.

The average age of the projected RSL starters comes in around 30 years of age and they are starting to think about legacy. Many of the players have found success with RSL but need to stay hungry. Having lost the MLS Cup and the U.S. Open Cup final last season should help create hunger. Despite some possible roster juggling due to the World Cup, this team is really a group so it is hard to pinpoint individual pieces. Still we try to do reveal the ones that will shine as RSL searches for more success.

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Douglas Smith is a soccer writer for Follow him on Twitter @DFresh39, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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5. Nick Rimando

Nick Rimando RSL
John Rieger - USA TODAY Sports

Being a top goalkeeper in MLS for many years, Nick Rimando is obviously a key to success for RSL. He will miss some time on international duty but will have plenty of time to win Save of the Year once again. He is one of the smaller keepers in the league but continues to win the starting job on his reaction and unorthodox style.

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4. Chris Schuler

Chris Schuler RSL
Casey Sapio - USA TODAY Sports

It is all about health for Chris Schuler as he should start at center back. He led the league in interceptions last year despite playing only about a half of the year. He also had two key goals during the playoffs to help RSL reach the MLS Cup.

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3. Luis Gil

Luis Gil RSL
Chris Nicoll - USA TODAY Sports

After getting his first senior national team cap, Luis Gil returns to RSL as one of the youth that can take over a match. RSL management think he is on a franchise player trajectory and he continues to produce with more minutes. Gil could take on more responsibility if Beckerman is called into the World Cup.

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2. Javier Morales

Javier Morales RSL
Chris Nicoll - USA TODAY Sports

The creative force for RSL is Javier Morales and his form in 2013 was worthy of much praise. Morales knows how to work a pass and ended last year second on the team in goals. He is the catalyst to the attack as the 34 year old provides leadership on the pitch.

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1. Devon Sandoval

Devon Sandoval
Chris Nicoll - USA TODAY Sports

During the MLS playoffs last year Devon Sandoval caught a lot of eyes. He will be called upon in various roles up top this year and looks to be a starter on March 8 with Saborio off on international duty. He scored three goals in U.S. Open Cup play through hard work and covering more ground than anyone. RSL is undefeated when Sandoval scores.