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When goals are gone

One-third of RSL's 2023 goalscoring output is gone. What comes next?

When goals are gone
Lucas Muller | Wasatch Soccer Sentinel

Jefferson Savarino.

Damir Kreilach.

Danny Musovski.

Three of RSL’s top 10 goalscorers in 2023 have departed the club, scoring a combined 16 goals among them. Of the club’s 48-goal return, one-third of the goals have departed. A further 11 assists punctuate the offseason, and while we can’t just say “27 goal contributions” (because, well, what if Savarino assisted Musovski?) have departed, we can say that Real Salt Lake’s goalscoring is a major question mark ahead of the 2024 season.

2024. Can you believe it’s 2024 already? I certainly can’t. I started writing about this club in 2011, and that sort of still feels like yesterday. The pangs of agony from 2013 still resonate in my head. Maybe that’s a me-problem. It’s certainly not relevant to today’s discussion.

Hemming and hawing around goalscoring does ignore at least one of the major factors to consider moving forward: Chicho Arango joined Real Salt Lake late in the year, playing 11 games and scoring 6 goals. That’s a rate of return unseen at the club since the days of Alvaro Saborio, and should it continue, RSL will be in a fine position upon which they can build.

It’s not dire, but it is a concern. It’s not as if RSL was a free-scoring team in 2023, coming smack-dab in the middle of the MLS table for that particular mark.

There are perhaps players who will step up their goal contributions — or at least that will be the hope. Diego Luna scored five and had three assists; an improvement should his minutes also improve seems likely. Pablo Ruiz will hopefully be back to business after a lengthy recovery from injury, and we can be at least somewhat optimistic about him improving upon his four-goal, six-assist return. Anderson Julio had five goals himself, and Andres Gomez had six assists. There are reasons to not feel like the sky has fallen.

Still, I can’t shake the nagging feeling that replacing three goal-dangerous players will be harder than anticipated. RSL has signed a talented 17-year-old in Fidel Barajas, but can he make the step up to this level? That’s literally a question we cannot answer without him having the opportunity to do so, and so we must be somewhat patient in answering it. Will RSL sign further players with goal-dangerous profiles? They should, as they almost certainly have the roster space to handle it (assuming the four players signed thus far aren’t all, for some reason, on the senior roster — that would be extremely outlandish, though. Maybe one is in Barajas. Maybe.)

But we’ve also had the persisting thought around here that Diego Luna isn’t long for RSL. After the end of the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris — a competition Luna is a near-lock for barring injury — we should expect interested parties to come knocking. It’s part of why we signed him: that potential to grow, be sold, and make RSL a good bit of money. (Were he to continue to improve and stay here, I would welcome him with open arms. He’s given me more consistent joy than basically any RSL player, sans Damir Kreilach, in the last five years. Joyful players rule.) We can’t count him as sold before he is, but there’s a pending issue there, too.

How can RSL solve this? I mean, it really just comes down to one thing: Signing players. We’ll just have to wait and see, I suppose.

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