2012 Stats: Goals – 46 (tied 7th in league), Shots On Goal – 151 (tied 11th in league)
Incoming players: Robbie Findley (acquired rights from Portland), Joao Plata (trade with Toronto), Olmes Garcia (transfer from Colombian club Deportes Quindio), Devon Sandoval (29th overall pick in MLS SuperDraft)
Outgoing players: Fabián Espíndola (traded to New York), Paulo Jr. (released, Vancouver), Emiliano Bonfigli (released)
Players on the mend: none
Key players: Álvaro Saborío
Analysis: It’s no surprise who will be leading the RSL attack this season. With 17 goals last season, third best in the league, Álvaro Saborío has proven that he is a top tier MLS forward. The real question is whether he will get any support from the other forwards on the team. Ranking seventh in the league last year with 46 goals, RSL struggled at times to score. Sabo will need more support if RSL hopes to compete again for the MLS Cup and the Supporters’ Shield.
This years group of forwards looks very different from what has been on the field the past couple years. Fabián Espíndola, who was the teams second leading scorer last season was traded to New York in the offseason. Which of the new guys will step up and claim his spot is still in question.
The most likely candidate is Robbie Findley. After struggling for two seasons playing in Europe, Findley has returned with hopes of regaining the form that helped RSL win the MLS cup in 2009. Findley’s speed has always been a challenge for opposing teams. If that speed leads to goals, the tandem of Sabo and Findley could be a lethal one-two punch.
Newcomer Joao Plata has looked good in his preseason performances. The 5 foot 2 Ecuadorian is capable of giving opposing defenses fits with his skill and quickness. The most likely role for Plata will be a shot of energy off the bench at the end of the game.
The biggest question mark will be the 20-year-old Columbian Olmes Garcia. It’s no question that he has the raw talent to be great. The biggest question is how long it will take to adjust to his new surroundings. By signing him to a five-year contract, the RSL leadership has shown that they are committed to giving Garcia the time needed to develop into something special. It’ll be interesting to watch what happens with Garcia in the years to come.
RSL has a lot of question marks at each position with this years team, but there are also many reasons to be optimistic. It all gets started at 8 pm as RSL takes on San Jose in San Jose. What are your predictions and what are you hoping to see?