By Charles Barnard
The RSL preseason is over. Hopefully the 2015 season will begin this Saturday. I thought now would be the perfect time to dust off the cobwebs on the blog and share some of my thoughts on the upcoming season.
If the offseason could be described in one word it would be “change”. Nine players that were on the RSL roster at the end of last season are no longer with the team. General Manager Garth Lagerwey has moved on to Seattle. And it appears that Head Coach Jeff Cassar has traded in the long used diamond formation for a 4-3-3.
All those changes leads to many questions for this upcoming season. How will the new formation affect the team? How will the new (and in Jameson Olave’s case, returning) players mesh with rest of the team? When will Father Time finally start to catch up to some of RSL’s veteran core?
Here are the four things that I will be watching closely as the season begins.
Will Sebastian Jaime become a breakout star?
In my mind the biggest move for this coming year didn’t occur in the offseason, but towards the end of last year with the signing of Sebastian Jaime. Jaime came in and played in 6 regular season games in 2014 playing in 261 minutes. Since he did not score a goal in that time many people think he struggled. Even the MLS preview article that was posted today on RSL said that Jaime was “relatively invisible after joining the club last summer.”
I wholeheartedly disagree. In the 261 minutes that he played, RSL scored 8 times or a goal every 32 minutes. That is scoring at an incredible rate. Although Jaime didn’t score one of those goals, he played a big part in those goals being scored. He also worked on the defensive side of the ball. During the time he played the team only gave up 2 goals. To look at it another way, the team had a +9 goal differential in the 2799 minutes that Jaime didn’t play. When he did play the team was +6.
With a whole preseason under his belt I believe that Jaime is going to have a big year. Will he score a lot of goals? I am not sure, but I do believe that he will make the whole team better when he is on the field.
Will Jordan Allen become a household name?
As we approach this coming season, one player people seem to be overlooking is Jordan Allen. Allen was only 18 years old at the beginning of last season. After a very good preseason Allen appeared in the first two games of the season. Then disaster struck and he suffered an injury that would keep him out the rest of the year.
Allen is back and ready to go this season. Many people think that he might spend a large portion of time with the Monarchs this season. I don’t agree. Not only do I think he will stay with RSL, I think he will get a lot of playing time with RSL. His ability to play multiple positions on the field makes him extremely valuable. I think he is going to force Cassar to play him due to his athleticism and his skill on the ball. I don’t know if he will get a lot of starts, but I do see him being one of the first people off the bench.
How long will it take RSL fans to fall in love with Demar Phillips?
I think the answer to this question is “not long”. I will admit that I have only seen him play in the limited minutes that he played in preseason, but I think he is going to do wonders for this team. While I really liked Chris Wingert, it is pretty safe to say he was not great going forward the past couple of years. The way that Phillips got into the attack in each game that he played in was encouraging to see. I can really see him adding to the RSL attack.
The next question will be how good of a defender will he be?
Will Jeff Cassar rotate minutes more than he did last season?
This might be my biggest concern coming into the season. And it is something that I am not sure people are talking about enough. Last season a 34 year old Javier Morales played a whopping 2645 minutes. This was the third highest on the team. And while Morales had an outstanding year, I wonder how much the amount of minutes he played affected him. How many times during RSL broadcasts did Brian Dunseth say that RSL was the deepest team in the league? At times it didn’t feel that Cassar coached in a way that he believed that.
The core of RSL is getting older. Morales is 35, Beckerman is 32, Saborio is 32, Olave is 33. Cassar needs to feel that he can count on his bench to come in and give these players games off. This is even more important this year with CCL games adding to RSL’s schedule. If this does not happen, I worry about if there will be any gas left in the tank come playoff time.