2012 Stats: Possession – 48%, Passing Accuracy – 78%
Incoming players: Khari Stephenson (Signed Feb 2013), Cole Grossman (2012 MLS Waiver Draft), John Stertzer (2013 MLS Superdraft)
Outgoing players: Jonny Steele (released, NY Red Bulls), Will Johnson (traded to Portland)
Players on the mend: Javier Morales (knee)
Key players: Sebastian Velasquez, Luis Gil
Analysis: The biggest question for the RSL midfield entering the 2013 season is who will fill in for injured Javier Morales? Sebastian Velasquez, Ned Grabavoy, Luis Gil, and newcomer Khari Stephenson are the likely candidates. Velasquez has looked good in preseason matches, however, as a second-year player with 9 appearances in 2012, it’s unclear whether he’s ready to fill the spot at the top of the diamond. He brings a flair to the game that is perhaps only matched by Morales, but can he also be effective?
Luis Gil helped the US U-20 team advance to the 2013 World Cup in Turkey by scoring the first goal in a 4-2 victory over Canada. While this is exciting for Gil and the U-20 team, it also means that he could be absent for much of the RSL season. Both Grabavoy and Stephenson have plenty of experience to fill the role, but can either lead the offensive attack?
The other question mark is who will replace the hustle and defensive effort of the departed Will Johnson. Newcomers Cole Grossman and John Stertzer are perhaps the two most likely to fill this void, but they seem likely to start the season further down on the depth chart. Can they gain the trust of Coach Jason Kreis and find their way into the rotation?
No matter which way you look in the midfield, questions abound – except for at the back of the diamond where Kyle Beckerman is likely to provide the stability that this group will need, especially in the early portion of this season.
In order to match the capabilities of the RSL midfield of recent years, however, one or more players will need to raise their game. Which player(s) will do so? Only time will tell.