Real Salt Lake cautiously setting high expectations for 2010

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SANDY —- Jason Kreis almost always shies away from talk of expectations. He doesn't like the word at all and usually says so when asked to discuss his expectations about some aspect of Real Salt Lake.

It's amazing how quickly things can change with a few wins in November.

Lofty expectations are unavoidable for Real Salt Lake this year, and Kreis might actually be embracing them.

"We've had a very good preseason, and the team is very well prepared for what should be the best season in Real Salt Lake history," said Kreis.

The 2010 season gets under way Saturday at San Jose, and most of the key contributors from last year's MLS Cup championship team are back. That continuity is why Kreis sounds so confident.

"We believe, and have believed all along, that success comes through consistency. We'll be an improved team, we'll be a better team just because we have more time together," said Kreis.

Of the 24 players who will begin the 2010 season on RSL's roster, 14 are entering their third year with the club, while 18 were members of last year's championship team. Those 18 holdovers represent the evolving core that Kreis and general manager Garth Lagerwey are trying to establish.

They've added six more pieces to the puzzle this off-season, with Costa Rican striker Alvaro Saborio and 16-year-old midfielder Luis Gil perhaps the most significant.

Saborio was a member of the 2006 Costa Rican World Cup team, and in his 10-year professional career in Costa Rica and Europe he's scored over 130 career goals. He will step right in and fill the void left by Yura Movsisyan, who is now playing in Denmark.

"Based on what I've seen in two weeks in Charleston, he looks to be fit and ready to play this weekend if needs be," said Kreis.

Gil's acquisition was a major coup for Real Salt Lake, but primarily in the long run. The midfielder has tremendous talent and is already regarded as one of the best young players in the United States. He's garnered interest from European giants Arsenal and Real Madrid, but the California native opted to stay close to home to develop his game.

Kreis doesn't have any expectations for Gil in 2010 and is excited to see his development serving as an understudy to Javier Morales and Andy Williams at attacking midfield.

Another midfielder with a bright future is Collen Warner, RSL's first-round draft pick.

A pair of defenders, Rauwshan McKenzie and Chris Schuler, and goalkeeper Tim Melia round out RSL's new faces entering the 2010 season.

"We have players who are certainly capable of contributing right away; whether or not they do is largely up to them and the performance of the team as a whole," said Kreis. "We feel like we're a very deep squad this year, and we have quite a few players who should be able to help us along in what's going to be a difficult and trying season."

Clint Mathis and Chris Seitz were the other significant departures for Real Salt Lake.

"I think we feel confident with the group of guys we have," said midfielder Ned Grabavoy. "They made some good decisions and some good changes."

Some of those decisions involved simply doing nothing.

Instead of going out signing several new players to bolster its title defense, RSL mostly stood pat. That should open the doors for second-year players like Jean Alexandre, Pablo Campos and Nelson Gonzalez to become more involved.


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James Edward


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