Musings on the Real Salt Lake Match: Oh….it’s you again


by Jason Goodbody

Last year, St Louis City SC split games with Real Salt Lake winning away 4-0 at the end of March and RSL returning the favor over the summer. It's not even April and we've burned through our home and away with the salty team from Utah. This could potentially be a burgeoning rivalry but it's tough to build that when your games are done before Easter.

Tim Parker returns

In the first half Parker not only had a strong individual performance but most importantly his leadership and ability to manage the defensive form of the back line effectively contained Real Salt Lake's forward and team captain Christian "Chicho" Aranga, not allowing a shot on goal the first half. His health moving forward will be critical to CITY's success and with the eventual return of an injured Joakim Nilsson, game outcomes will be better. Josh Yaro continued to show why he won Man of the Match last week and placed on the MLS team of the Matchday. He still has a lot of development in front of him but is proving to deliver strong depth for the backline.

Roman Bürki was salty pressed

At precisely the 5' point, after RSL forward Anderson Julio slipped through for a shot serviced by a backheaded pass from Bode Hidalgo, Burki was visibly frustrated with his back line, made it clear he didn't like the mid vibe his defense was giving off, was like "bruh", and proceeded to give them an eyeroll of a 14 year old girl. I can't show it to you or Apple TV would sue me for copyright infringement. Go check it out. Totes worth it.

What is a DP?

Tell me if you've heard this one before. Why hasn't St. Louis CITY SC filled its third remaining designated player or DP slot? Why not spend a bunch of money and bring in another Löwen-level talent?

For those vaguely familiar or having only heard those terms thrown about by that one guy loudly complaining in your section, your social media feed, or increasingly uncomfortable grocery checkout line conversation, the Designated Player Rule allows for MLS clubs to sign up to three players that would otherwise be outside the team's salary cap. The rule was put into place in 2007 and originally known as the "Let's Get David Beckham To Play for the LA Galaxy Right Now so He Can Eventually Circumvent it as President and Co-Owner of Inter Miami 15 Years Later" rule.

CITY currently has two of three allowable designated players in Eduard Löwen and João Klauss, each making about $1.3M in guaranteed compensation and well below a $2.7M slightly Messi-skewed league average.

In the CITY Voice Podcast released by the club this last week, sporting director Lutz Pfannenstiel addressed the question on everyone's mind except his "Why don't they get a DP?"

His answer, "Tell me, what is a DP? Is a DP a player that costs $10 million? What's the reason to put a price on a player's head and believe that because he's expensive or older, because he played somewhere before, he should just roll the league and smoke it?"

Lutz's word choice about "rolling the league and smoking it" is understandable knowing that there's a dispensary catty-corner from the stadium, just a few blocks north of his office, and while certainly out of his way going home, a route it wouldn't surprise me if he takes about once a month…. but, he has a point.

The CITY Voice: Lutz Pfannenstiel | Three Years into His Five-Year Plan
The CITY Voice: Lutz Pfannenstiel | Three Years into His Five-Year Plan

Lutz has been tasked to build a program where all the parts need to fit and work together without the risk of blowing half of your payroll on a single player that can't connect with the team and may not deliver (see Toronto last year). Build slowly, he says, as it is all part of a 5 year plan, turned 6 with his contract extension. It also means it will be a frustrating journey because we found out last night exactly what a DP is. A DP is Chicho Arango who is paid handsomely because he can figure out over the span of 45 minutes how to dice up (and score a hat trick) against a defensive back line whose combined salary of players not named Tim Parker is less than what Arango makes in 3 biweekly paychecks.

I don't believe many are arguing for a $10M player. But we could use a Chicho Arango, preferably one who doesn't punch Tomas Totland in the chest. Or we can choose any number of $2M attacking midfielders to fill the void when Klauss or Löwen is injured for an indeterminate period of time.

It will take a while to find such a player and St Louis CITY SC is so new that it hasn't even finished filing its taxes yet on their inaugural season. So we need to give it time. Also, designated players cost money and I don't know how CITY's plans to use its tax return; a 4 day weekend in the Bahamas? Pay off the credit card bill from Christmas? Replace the siding on the house? New attacking midfielder?

But until then, the team will slowly get better with training, experience, or the addition of a few more Northern Europeans who apparently aren't told what St Louis in August will feel like.

Scattershot Musings

  • I want to know where in Salt Lake City, Utah Chicho Arango found a barber to style his hair like that.

  • The refs that we complain about and think are awful, are biased against our teams, and somehow visually impaired we've been rooting for to get paid more. That's called progress.

  • In the 52' Josh Yaro had a great clearance of an Anderson Julio attack that resulted in a four-person pileup and Njabulo Blom squished underneath Bürki in the aftermath. After Bürki's full weight was lifted, Blom laid on the ground for several minutes in writhing pain with the wind apparently knocked out of him, drawing the fevered attention from the CITY medical staff. Afterwards, there was a "would have been totally worth it" look on every face of the women at our watch party in our living room.

  • Real Salt Lake attacking midfielder Diego Luna played really well and was instrumental in Arango's third goal, especially good to see after his admitted struggles this season. I'm rooting for this young man as he has a bright future in the MLS and USA soccer.

  • Kyle Hiebert subbed in for Tomas Totland in the second half at right back. Now, Hiebert rarely if ever plays right back. Jake Nerwinski, who is a right back, certainly was available. I'm a Kyle Hiebert fan. He has a bright future at CITY. Why put him in a situation with the game on the line at a position he doesn't normally play? Pundits better than I likely have an explanation but I'm at a loss.

  • One attendee at our watch party who will go unnamed but let's just call him "Drey", admitted that he had correctly guessed the 3-1 outcome in the CITY app earlier that day. A record scratch sound stopped all activity and conversation in the room and everyone let out a collective "what!?! For those who may not know, after every game, a winner is selected among a pool of fans who had accurate predictions and receives a signed jersey or other CITY memorabilia. It's a large pool to choose from when we win 2-1 but I imagine there was a select few with the slightly traitorous foresight to purposefully pick a 3-1 loss. So congratulations "Drey". Enjoy your jersey. I hope instead of autographs it the team writes insults and obscenities at you.

  • Bürki and Arango swapped jerseys at the end of the match. Opposing players do this a lot because "game respects game" but I'd rather imagine it will get donated to "Drey" for his pre-game pick. Kick rocks "Drey".

See you next time.  #AllForCITY

Check out musings from the DC United Match match. 

Photos courtesy of St Louis City SC