Once a Metro: Real Salt Lake had a good stretch through April. How did the fans react to their hot start? What is the feeling now?
RSL Soapbox: I think everybody at the organization, except for maybe some of the players, were surprised by the hot start. RSL had a bad year in 2015 and nobody really expected them to bounce back that quickly. Even GM Craig Waibel has said that RSL has exceeded expectations thus far. He knew that he made the team much deeper this year with acquisitions like Sunny Obayan and Yura Movsisyan, but the turnaround has been abrupt. The feeling now is still very positive. RSL just got done with a five-game road trip due to getting a new field at Rio Tinto Stadium and while they should have done better than they did, they left with six points. That's not bad. Now they have a stretch of home games over the next month and a half where they could potentially gain a lot of points and work their way up the standings.
OaM: RSL is in third in the West, only 4 points behind FC Dallas, whom they play this weekend. Any chance they are overlooking the New York Red Bulls? Who does RSL "fear" the most on RBNY?
RSL SB: No chance. I haven't heard anybody talk about Dallas yet, in fact. I personally didn't realize that was the next opponent after the Red Bulls. So in short, RSL is squarely focused on the next game at hand. As for who RSL fears the most on RBNY, I have three players that immediately come to mind. I think Mike Grella is one of the most underrated players in the league. He has an incredible ability to make defenders look silly and he produces both goals and assists on a regular basis. Sacha Kljestan is the MLS leader in assists so far, so he is obviously very good at creating chances for his teammates. And Bradley Wright-Phillips, while still not in his best form, could score a goal at any minute. For me, those are the best players on the club and I'm not sure who you focus on to shut down New York.
OaM: Joao Plata leads the team in most offensive categories. How has the team responded having him back from his injury last season?
RSL SB: Joao Plata's injury, while not the only reason, was probably the biggest reason why RSL struggled last year. And that is because Jeff Cassar and the coaching staff changed Salt Lake's offensive formation because of Joao Plata trying to play to his strengths. RSL now has a trio of forwards that are dangerous in a lot of ways. Each of RSL's preferred forwards have five goals a piece, the only trio in Major League Soccer that can say that. The team has responded not only to him returning to full strength, but also to having experienced leaders like Yura Movsisyan and Chris Wingert in the locker room that demand the best from everyone around them.
You can see RSL Soapbox's questions to Once a Metro here.