The youth movement in Salt Lake poses some questions. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The youth movement in Salt Lake poses some questions. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

We are in the final stretch of teams here on our team-by-team season preview series. We’re staying in the Western Conference for a bit longer as today we turn our attention to Jason Kreis and Real Salt Lake.

Kreis and his staff have spent a good amount of time re-tooling this roster in the offseason by shedding some salary of some key players from the last few seasons.

Salt Lake had a solid 2012 but faded late in the season when things mattered most. With some salary opened up and some new faces (and old) in the roster, has Kreis done enough to get this team back to the MLS promise land? Time to figure that out.

2012 MLS Record: 17-11-6 (2nd in Western Conference), 57 points

[twocol_one]IN: 
Cole Grossman (11/19/12 – waiver draft)
Aaron Maund (12/3/12 – trade from Toronto FC)
Lovel Palmer (12/14/12 – Re-Entry Draft Stage 2)
Robbie Findley (1/16/13 – rights traded from Portland)
John Stertzer (1/17/13 – SuperDraft)
Joao Plata (1/30/13 – trade from Toronto)
Devon Sandoval (2/19/13 – SuperDraft)[/twocol_one] [twocol_one_last]OUT: 
Nico Muñiz (11/19/12 – option declined)
GK Kyle Reynish (12/3/12 – option declined)
Jonny Steele (12/3/12 – option declined)
Paulo Jr. (12/3/12 – option declined)
Emiliano Bonfigli (12/3/12 – option declined)
Justin Braun (12/3/12 – traded to Toronto)
D Jámison Olave (12/3/12 – traded to New York)
F Fabián Espíndola (12/3/12 – traded to New York)
M Will Johnson (12/3/12 – traded to Portland)[/twocol_one_last]

Key Questions for 2013

1. Does the additions of Joao Plata and Robbie Findley re-kindle the attack? One thing many observers with this club saw late in the 2012 season and especially in the playoffs was how little this team was able to do offensively. They could create chances with Javier Morales and everyone knew Alvaro Saborio could score. But at some point teams figured out how to slow those two down and no one else stepped up to help. So in comes a small, speedy option in Plata and the return of Findley. Both are solid additions but don’t sleep on rookie Devon Sandoval as well, that may be an underrated move that will pay off down the road.

RSL needs to find a way to get Findley going early on with Saborio. Those two did well in their brief time together a few seasons ago. But fans will need/want to see more out of these two from the start. Morales will also need to find his MVP form if RSL wants to stay in the thick of things out West.

2. Did RSL give up too much this offseason? You look at some of the names that RSL was quick to trade back in December and you scratch your head a bit. But in all honesty, those moves had to happen. Addition by subtraction if you will. Fabian Espindola was doing very little for them in the last few months of being with that team and Jamison Olave, while good, was too banged up to depend on long term in my mind. The bigger loss may be Will Johnson though, replacing his value on the wings and in the midfield will be tough to overcome this season. The additions of Cole Grossman, Lovel Palmer and Aaron Maund are shrewd moves though. Each one of them are decent players and will do very well in Kreis’ system.

3. Will the defense be better without Olave? Losing a top defender for any team is a tough thing to over come. Olave was an absolute beast for RSL these last few years, a big reason why the team saw a lot of success. His partnership with Nat Borchers was one of the best in the league too. But saying all of that it was time for him to go this offseason. RSL knew it. I believe their fans knew it too. I look at the roster and see guys like Kwame Watson-Siriboe and Chris Schuler. I fully expect those two guys to be a big reason as to why RSL fans will quickly forget about Olave. Both have seen plenty of playing time over the last year or so (Schuler more than KWS) and each are good enough to continue to improve with Borcher alongside them. There will be some bumps but I like the youthfulness of RSL’s defense along with its solid veteran core.

Breakout Player for 2013

Luis Gil – It is tough to pick out a young guy that will jump out with this team so Gil it is again for me. I think this is a big year in the making for Gil both with RSL and the U20 national team.

Predictions for 2013

- RSL will surprise some people. Some folks are already doubting this club but don’t sleep on them. They are still dangerous in the attack and if Saborio can figure out how to score on some of the better defenses in this league, look out.

- They’ll gamble with a third DP. The ownership change this offseason opened the doors for further spending with this club. I think at some point this summer the team will take a gamble on a third DP, someone that puts them over the top.

- They are a sleeper team for the USOC. Few teams take the USOC serious and RSL is one of them. I think this could be their year to do very well in it.