Robbie Russell’s renowned penalty kick that sent his teammates gallivanting around Qwest Field in celebration of winning the MLS Cup has been replayed in the minds of RSL fans for months now. And, with the 2010 season now underway, the Claret-and-Cobalt is looking to defend its title as MLS Cup champions.
However, defense of that title won’t be easy, as RSL lost two main contributors from last season’s roster, Yura Movsisyan and Clint Mathis. Both players were loaded with experience and will be missed this season.
Real Salt Lake will also have to figure out how to win games on the road. A 3-0 win over San Jose to open the 2010 season in California is a nice start, but consistency on the road is what coach Jason Kries expects — and what it’ll take to return to the promised land of soccer in the United States.
Sure things for the team from Salt Lake include winning in the friendly confines of Rio Tinto Stadium and making a run in the playoffs despite its seed. In last year’s playoff push, RSL was the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, yet rode the momentum of its first-round win all the way to the title.
RSL’s core is intact from the championship team, including Javiar Morales, Robbie Findley and Kyle Beckerman. With Beckerman in the midfield distributing the ball, Morales and Findley will fill the net. Jamison Olave anchors the defense and Nick Rimando’s play in goal can’t be underestimated.
RSL will be there at the end of the season, and, if road wins come more frequently, home-field advantage could be the difference as RSL makes its run in pursuit of the repeat.