It’s no secret that Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake do not like each other. In 2021, David Ochoa tried his best to add every other team in the league to that list. Ochoa’s antics, which include trolling opponents, kicking the ball into the stands, and the CONCACAF-iest dark arts, provoked players, coaches, and fans alike.
In the midst of all of that, head coach Freddy Juarez resigned mid-season to become an assistant for Seattle Sounders. Pablo Mastroeni was named interim coach and led RSL to a 7th place finish in the Western Conference (advancing only because of a missed handball in the box against Justin Glad. This cost Sporting KC a chance to finish first in the west, kicked the LA Galaxy out of the playoffs, and rewarded a deeply undeserving RSL team a playoff spot).
In the playoffs, RSL continued their dark arts to beat the Seattle Sounders without a single shot on goal. From there, RSL bounced Sporting Kansas City from the playoffs with two goals in the final 20 minutes. Salt Lake was ultimately eliminated from the MLS Cup Playoffs by the Portland Timbers in the Western Conference Finals.
So, heading in to 2022, where do RSL stand?
Venezuelan striker Sergio Cordova joins RSL on loan from FC Augsburg in the German Bundasliga. Cordova only has 10 career goals in 124 games for club and 0 goals in 15 games for country. He’s valued at €1 million, but it doesn’t look like he’ll be a designated player.
Defender Johan Kappelhof was signed as a free agent after a stint with the Chicago Fire. Kappelhof played 147 games for Chicago before departing this offseason.
Defensive midfielder Scott Caldwell also signed as a free agent after playing for New England. Caldwell was New England’s second homegrown and made 229 appearances for the Revs. It is unclear whether he can grow dreadlocks to fill the Beckerman sized hole in the midfield.
Albert Rusnak. The designated player and creative catalyst left in free agency for Seattle. Rusnak was a tremendous player for RSL for years and they’ll struggle to replace his offensive prowess. Rusnak was the second leading scorer for RSL this year with 11 goals and seven assists in 34 matches.
Former Young DP, Jeizon Ramirez, has left the club on a free and headed back to Venezuela. He barely played for RSL and this move creates much needed roster flexibility.
Left back Donny Toia is a free agent. In 2021, he made 19 appearances with 15 starts. Over the last three seasons, Toia has made 63 appearances for RSL.
2022 Season Outlook
I’m going to try to take my Sporting Blue glasses off to be more objective about this one. I still see RSL as a borderline playoff team. Teams like LAFC seemingly got much stronger and RSL lost a key piece of their team with Rusnak’s departure. RSL snuck into the playoffs due to a missed handball but struggled to score throughout the season. Cordova has struggled to find the net as well, so I’m not sure what kind of competition he provides to Bobby Wood and Rubio Rubin.
We can all agree that we hate RSL. But where do you see them finishing this season?