SANDY — Following his team’s playoff elimination against Seattle on Thursday night, coach Jason Kreis was asked if the loss meant the end of an era for Real Salt Lake.
He simply said, “We’ll see.”
In the locker room afterward, the players weren’t interested in speculating about who would be back in 2013 either.
“I don’t think we try and worry about it too much. I know all the guys in this locker room feel together and feel part of a family,” said Will Johnson. “None of us have discussed it the way the media has, that the powers that be might’ve mentioned a few things.”
Despite another disappointing elimination-game performance at Rio Tinto Stadium, everyone was trying to focus on the positives of the 2012 season instead of the disappointments. Real Salt Lake set new franchise highs in wins, points and goals scored.
“Really the whole year for me, extremely proud of this group, extremely proud of the effort they put forth tonight,” said Kreis. “A lot of good things came out of this year — with numbers of wins and numbers of points, and we broke some records for our club — so there were definitely some positive things that we should remember.”
The goals weren’t there late in the season though, and that was ultimately RSL’s playoff undoing. Over its final five matches — one Champions League game, two regular-season games and two playoff games — Real Salt Lake didn’t score a single goal.
It’s a black cloud that will hang over the team throughout the offseason, but it won’t be the only thing Kreis thinks about while evaluating players.
“I think it’s important to try to figure out exactly why you’re not scoring those goals. For me again, creating the right number of chances, maybe a few decisions were wrong in the final third about where the ball needed to go and when it needed to go. I think it’s the typical stance that most people would take is that it falls on the forwards, but not for me. No, it falls on everybody to create good goal-scoring chances and to take goal-scoring chances,” said Kreis.
RSL’s core group of players has been together since 2008, but changes seem inevitable this offseason. The contracts of Javier Morales, Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert expire at the end of this season, while Alvaro Saborio has an expensive option on his contract next season. Luis Gil will likely graduate from the Generation Adidas program as well.
Without the benefit of Champions League allocation money — a mechanism of raising the salary cap — it will be next to impossible for RSL to bring everyone back.
“Obviously we didn’t achieve any of our goals this season, and the reality of this business is it’s cut throat,” said Johnson. “Everybody wants your job and this is a fantastic club to play for, and there’s a lot of people that want to fight for the RSL jersey, so you can expect changes. But that’s the reality of the business, and we have enough experience guys in this locker room who get that.”