Garth Lagerwey is a genius.
That statement might be a bit bold, so let me rephrase it. Garth Lagerwey is far and away the best general manager in MLS. This becomes more and more clear to me each passing week as I watch RSL play.
But how does the play of players like Rimando, Beckerman, Morales, and Saborio affect my opinion of Lagerwey? To be honest, it doesn't. What does affect my opinion of Lagerwey is the play of players like Plata, Mulholland, Allen, and Garcia. Very quietly Lagerwey has built a powerhouse of a team. Not only for this season, mind you, but for 2015 and beyond.
Last season I took at look at what I called RSL 3.0. That is the youth of the team that will be taking over for the core group of starters that RSL currently has. At the time I looked forward three years into the future to the year 2016 to see what our team might look like. We are one year closer to that date so I thought it might be fun to take another look at RSL 3.0.
On opening day of the 2016 season, Saborio and Beckerman will be 34 years old., Borchers will be 35 and Morales and Rimando will be 36. Now I wouldn't put it past any of these players to still be playing. But I do think it is safe to say they will all be past their prime. But RSL fans won't need to worry. RSL 3.0 will be ready to go.
The future of our group of forwards is very bright. Due to injury, as well as international call ups, we have seen many of our young forwards already. The sky is the limit to 21 year old Olmes Garcia's potential. Devon Sandoval (22 years old) has already proved how valuable he could be in last season's playoff run. And Joao Plata (22) has been the early season MVP for the team this year. The crazy thing to think about is that in 2016 these three will be 24 years of age or younger!
Since my original article, the team has also added home grown prospect Benji Lopez. The 19 year old has yet to see the field for RSL but the coaches and front office are very high on him and what he might become.
The RSL midfield of the future also looks very promising. Luis Gil has taken tremendous strides over the past year. He turned in his very good 2013 season into a call up with the USMNT. At only 20 years old, Gil is probably only going to continue to improve. The only question is how long RSL will be able to keep him before he looks to move to Europe.
Sebastian Velasquez (23) also took another step forward last year. His skill with the ball is already pretty awesome. Team management came out in the preseason and said they are hoping for more from him this year. John Stertzer (23) had his rookie season sidetracked by injuries but has still shown glimpses of why RSL drafted him. Cole Grossman (24) has taken the role of Beckerman's backup and is expected to see a lot of playing time this year while Kyle is gone to the World Cup.
The two exciting new pieces to the midfield puzzle are Jordan Allen and Luke Mulholland. In last year's article I listed the 18 year old Allen as one to watch at outside back. But it seems like he is destined to play midfield (or forward) instead. The homegrown product impressed in the preseason and the coaching staff rewarded him by getting him on the field in the first two matches of the season. Mulholland (25) was signed in the off season and has quickly made a name for himself as a spark plug off the bench. If his high level of play continues I would not be shocked to see him get more time in the starting lineup.
The RSL defense is also in a very good position going forward. Even though he has been with the club for 7 years now we need to remember that Tony Beltran is still only 26 years old. He continues to improve and has once again been called up to the USMNT. There is no doubt the the center back pairing of the future is Chris Schuler (26) and Carlos Salcedo (20). Schuler is dominate when he is healthy. Salcedo continues to get valuable experience and will only continue to improve. And, Aaron Maund (23) has also shown a vast improvement so far this season.
New this year to my list is Rich Balchan (25). He made his RSL debut against TFC and looked pretty good. His career has been injury plagued but he has been solid when he has had a chance to play.
The player to watch for in the future is a kid named Justen Glad. The 16 year old played some preseason minutes with the team and looked great. Minutes after coming into the match he nearly had an assist sending in a perfect cross to Saborio whose shot went wide. He continues to play for the academy and was recently named to the US U-18 team. The team is extremely high on Glad but it is unknown when we will be able to see him in an RSL kit. He has already been offered a scholarship to attend Stanford. When he does arrive he will be one to watch.
Jeff Attinella played well as Rimando's back up last season. The 25 year old will have another big role with the team this season while Rimando is away. But the future belongs to Lalo Fernadez. The 21 year old came through the RSL academy and has now spent the last two years learning from the best keeper in the league, Rimando.
The future is bright for RSL. But there is no doubt that this list will continue to change over the next few years. One place where RSL is sure to get hurt is from next year's expansion draft. The odds of RSL losing two players in that draft are extremely high, especially with Jason Kreis being one of the people that will be involved in selecting the players. It will be very interesting come the off season to see who RSL will protect (see my early look at the expansion draft here).
The future of Garth Lagerwey with the team is uncertain. His contract is up at the end of the year. Even if he were to leave at the end of the season, he has put the pieces in place for RSL to be successful long after he is gone.