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RSL's Savarino saga continues the club's drama

Once again, RSL is in the headlines for the wrong reasons.

RSL's Savarino saga continues the club's drama
Lucas Muller | Wasatch Soccer Sentinel

Real Salt Lake’s innate need for dramatic happenings is unparalleled.

The last few weeks at the club have shown this need twice: first, when Danny Musovski refused to train and play for the team owing to a contract dispute, the specifics of which are not known; second, when Jefferson Savarino publicly disputed that he was out of the team for “personal reasons.”

It’s not especially a look you like to see from a team. Combine this with a collapse over the last six weeks (with, yes, a couple wins in there, but it’s indisputably worse from how the team had previously performed) and things feel pretty bad. And then we’ve got … this.

See, we don’t actually know what this one means, but a player tagging an agency with a highlight reel seems, well, off. It’s nothing I’ve seen from an active player in all my time paying far too much attention to this team.

It’s clear that something’s been amiss with Savarino for an extended period of time, given his not traveling for some away matches without a reported injury. Those have often been attributed to “personal reasons” without dispute from Savarino, which makes this one even more interesting.

It’s an issue we simply haven’t talked critically about enough, I believe. I’m guilty of that, certainly. That’s not without some justification on my end: I don’t love to talk about players’ personal lives. If there is or was a personal issue, that’s not for me to involve myself in, and I’ll stand by that. But a player quote-tweeting his club on social media? That’s interesting.

There’s clearly a problem here. It’s a distraction at a crucial moment of the season. Second-place seeding in the Western Conference is more or less up for grabs — in no small part to RSL’s profligacy. The club’s trajectory was very positive, climbing from 10th place in the West to 3rd place in a matter of weeks. The team is now in fifth, and yes, they’re sitting just two points off second-place LAFC, but they could be in a considerably stronger position had they continued earning between 1.6 and 2 points per game over five-game spans, as they did during their strong run. Instead, we’re closer to .6 to 1.4 points per game — a much less respectable margin.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think RSL is going to miss out on the playoffs. The odds are increasingly small that’ll happen — just a 0.39 percent chance that they’ll miss end in tenth or eleventh place. Even in the old playoff format, it’s just a 6 percent chance of missing out. Those things can change quickly, of course, because match results are not purely a probability event.

Let’s redirect back here. RSL feels like a team that’s teetering on the edge. They could fall forward into success, or they could fall backward into failure. I don’t think they can continue existing as they do now, living somewhere in the middle. It’s a frustrating point, but RSL remains in a reasonable position in the standings, so not all is lost.

I wish I knew why this club was constitutionally incapable of staying out of the headlines for the worst reasons. Until then, I guess we’re going to have to continue wondering.

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