SUNRISE, Fla. Andy Williams, Nik Besagno and Kenny Cutler. The trio is all that remains from Real Salt Lake's inaugural team of 2005.
It makes sense why Williams is still around, he was an early pick in the expansion draft and brings a lot of skill to the table. Besagno was the No. 1 overall pick in the SuperDraft at 16, making him an obvious long-term project. But Cutler? How is it that an undrafted rookie is still with the team four years later?
"Kenny's the ultimate professional in my mind," said RSL coach Jason Kreis. "He comes out every day and gives you everything he has. You know what you're going to get, always a very consistent level. He's an extremely smart player."
Cutler isn't a lock to make this year's 28-man roster, but he's being afforded every opportunity to do so.
Heading into the offseason RSL's coaching staff made it very clear to Cutler what his weaknesses were and what he needed to work on, and not surprisingly Cutler did it.
"We really feel he's done everything we've asked, we're happy with that, and believe he deserves to still be around the group," said Kreis. "He's a guy frankly we don't want to get rid of. We want badly for Kenny Cutler to make this team, cause we feel he deserves it."
So what's been the secret to Cutler's longevity? He believes it's just being steady.
"I feel like I consistently go out there and give 100 percent," he said. "I feel I do a lot for the team that doesn't get noticed, and that's fine, because my coaches notice and my teammates notice it, and I think that's the main reason I'm still hear, my teammates and coaches trust me."
He's looking particularly sharp this preseason, one in which he says many of the inside jokes of years past just don't apply anymore.
Even a joke made a few days ago in which 17-year-old pint-sized rookie Alex Nimo was dubbed the next Atiba Harris after plowing into goalkeeper Kyle Reynish went right over the head of nearly a dozen players.
Cutler has always possessed the necessary work ethic to be successful. It's why he was named co-captain of the Under-17 National Team during the 1999 youth World Cup. It's why he earned first-team all-ACC honors at Clemson during his senior season, and it's why he even earned an MLS roster spot to begin with.
Despite the praise and the modest credentials, Cutler's in a tough spot. He plays holding midfielder, the primary position of Kyle Beckerman, Nathan Sturgis and Carey Talley. The Salt Lake coaching staff will no doubt juggle positions around slightly to ensure that two of those three players are starting, but does RSL really need four holding midfielders?
Cutler, 25, obviously hopes so.
"I consider it an honor for me (that I'm still around) because I consider Salt Lake my home. I enjoy playing for Real Salt Lake, and I want to play for Salt Lake," said Cutler. "It's unfortunate there's been a lot of turnover, but we're moving in the right direction, and hopefully the results come this year that we've been hoping for for three years now."
There's another intangible Cutler can add to the squad, besides just a experience off the bench.
Not only does Cutler raise the level of training on a daily basis with his consistency, but his experience and professionalism at holding midfield are great assets to have on the field during reserve games. His presence could do wonders for an RSL team that might have six rookies.
"There's a lot of young players here that are going to be important to Real Salt Lake for a lot of years, and if I can be a part of helping molding them into the team, if that's my role, I'll accept that," said Cutler.