'15 Season Preview: RSL hopes to avoid another premature end

Sandy, UT (SportsNetwork.com) - Perennial contender Real Salt Lake has made a habit of coming up short in recent years, but the club will hope to reverse that trend in the 2015 season.

Salt Lake has appeared in the postseason each of the past seven seasons, but the club has just one MLS Cup title to show for it when it defeated the Los Angeles Galaxy on penalties in 2009.

While the club suffered a disappointing loss to Sporting Kansas City in the 2013 final, the Claret and Cobalt, despite finishing the 2014 regular season in third place in the Western Conference, were nowhere near close to returning to championship match, losing to eventual victor L.A. by a 5-0 aggregate score in the opening round of the playoffs.

All told, it wasn't a poor start to the Jeff Cassar era. Cassar, after all, did have big shoes to fill in replacing head coach Jason Kreis, who signed on to join New York City FC following the 2013 MLS Cup defeat.

Cassar's second act, though, could be marginally more difficult after having to reshuffle the roster's defense.

Salt Lake sent stud defender Nat Borchers to the Portland Timbers in exchange for allocation money while longtime servants Chris Wingert and Ned Grabavoy were snapped up by NYCFC in the MLS Expansion Draft, leaving Cassar with some holes to fill.

The club addressed those needs by landing Jamison Olave, who earned MLS Defender of the Year honors with RSL in 2010, through a trade with Red Bull New York.

Adding Demar Phillips and Elias Vasquez provides Cassar with further reinforcements, while the club may also feel tempted to throw highly-touted rookie defenders Phanuel Kavita and Boyd Okwuonu into the mix.

Salt Lake also added a bit of steel to the middle of the park by securing the services of holding midfielder Pecka, who joins the Rio Tinto outfit from NASL club Ft. Lauderdale Strikers.

The remainder of the club's roster is unchanged from last season, save for a few minor pieces.

Javier Morales is RSL's central creative force while Luke Mulholland will add a bit of industry to the proceedings.

Alvaro Saborio, Joao Plata, Olmes Garcia and Devon Sandoval will comprise the forward line, which was responsible for just 24 of the club's 54 goals in the regular season last term.

And anchoring the team is Nick Rimando, one of the best goalkeepers in MLS.

ADDITIONS: Jamison Olave (D), Pecka (M), Demar Phillips (D), Elias Vasquez (D).

LOSSES: Nat Borchers (D), Robbie Findley (F), Ned Grabavoy (M), Chris Wingert (D).

OUTLOOK: Real Salt Lake should be nailed on favorites to secure a spot in the postseason, but where the club goes from there is very much open to interpretation. At present, RSL's squad lacks a bit of punch necessary to truly compete for the title, but there is always the potential for a summer signing to act as a shot in the arm and elevate the club's prospects.