The way this year is starting, it sure feels like the Galaxy are the belle of the ball. Everyone wants to fill up our dance card. Next on the list is Real Salt Lake for the home opener, and a friend of mine over at RSL Soapbox, Denzel Eslinger, sent over a few questions. You can see his write-up here, let's take a look at the questions I asked him:
1) A few cycles removed from the MLS Cup win, and now with enough time since the CCL final, is winning the West still the expectation in RSL camp? Or have expectations been lowered to making the playoffs?
A) Nope, I think that today RSL's GM Garth Lagerwey made it clear what the goals are "Win MLS Cup and advance to the knockout stage of the CONCACAF Champions League.
"If we achieve those, we succeed," RSL GM Garth Lagerwey told local media of his squad’s targets this season. "If we don’t, we fail. It’s very black and white this year ... period. End of story."
I expect that is the expectation of the players who have committed several years to staying a part of the RSL core is to win trophies and having come so close on so many fronts (3 conf finals in last 4 years, winning a CCL group, advancing to CCL final) that many of them believe that this is the chance to get more silverware. While RSL has gotten younger this offseason, the fact that the team can put out 9 players who played and won the 2009 MLS Cup speaks volumes to what the team can do in 2012.
2) MLS said earlier this week that RSL expects a full year of Javier Morales. He didn't look 100% after he came back, how has he looked in preseason?
A) I agree with you that he didn't look anything close to 100% last year, he had moments in most games and perhaps it was more about getting him back into action to know that he could fully recover from what was a horrific injury. I think that he is close to 100%, he had a couple of issues not related to that injury that he had taken care of early this year, which have limited his minutes in the preseason. I don't expect him to start on Saturday, I don't expect him to start against New York, I think RSL has the knowledge that it is much more important to be in form and healthy at the end of the season than it is to be that way at the start of the season.
I do believe that physically Javier will be back 100%, his doctors have said as much, but you always have to beware of the mental aspects of recovery and that is why I think RSL and Javier were so determined to get him back on the pitch at the end of 2011. I think if RSL can have a 100% Javier Morales for 80% of the season this year it will be a very good thing for both player and club.
3) Looking at the goal totals from last year, it's Saborio and Espondola….and then Beckerman with three. Are you expecting any of the non Saborio or Espondola types to get 5-10 goals this year?
There is one set of numbers that everyone misses from last year, that I believe will be the key to the 2012 season. 468 minutes, 2 goals and 4 assists, those are the numbers for Paulo Jr., who was hampered with a number of injuries last year. If he can find 1350 minutes this year (15 matches total) he would end up with 6 goals and 11 assists, for a team that scored just 4 goals fewer than LA last year, that may be all the difference that is needed. It was the breakdown (in large part due to injuries) of the defense at the end of the year that was the deciding factor in the RSL season and playoff run. I don't think the offense will be a problem, a healthy Javier Morales, a bit more Paulo Jr., and a fair shot of Sebastian Velasquez should be more than enough to provide help to Fabian Espindola and Alvaro Saborio.
Bonus question: If you had been allowed to chose the Salt Lake franchise's name, what would you have gone with?
Wow that is a hard question, see to me that name isn't that big of an issue. Yes in Spain that title is bestowed by the King, but we aren't in Spain and we don't have a King. Nobody has an issue with DC United (united what?) I understand that the name was chosen to honor the team that inspired Dave Checketts to become involved in MLS and own a team, I understand that the title might seem odd to those who want it to be given to a team by a King, well I say get over it. I sure would have avoided things like Earthquakes, Fire, Clash, Mutiny, Fusion, and almost every other name chosen by MLS teams, including Galaxy. I think given the state of things when we joined MLS, I probably would have just gone with Salt Lake, it was good enough for the front of our jerseys until the Xango deal.
If you want to see my answers, you can see them over at RSL Soapbox. Thanks for stopping by, and we'll see y'all real soon.