From its humble beginnings playing at Rice-Eccles Stadium, to the glory years of four cup finals appearances and winning the 2009 MLS Cup, Real Salt Lake has quite the history for a club that is just 15 years old.
With the end of the 2019 season nearing and the final days of Nick Rimando’s storied career comes to an end, I thought I’d take a look back at the Best XI players in team history over the past 15 seasons.
With 10 playoff appearances in the past 12 seasons, an appearance in the 2011 CONCACAF Champions League final and the 2013 U.S. Open Cup and MLS Cup finals and having just celebrated the 10th anniversary of RSL’s 2009 MLS Cup championship run, these are my picks for Real Salt Lake’s 15th Anniversary All-Time Team.
The squad is lined up in a 4-4-3 formation — four defenders, four midfielders, and three forwards — and is led in goal by Nick Rimando, the G.O.A.T. goalkeeper. Both individual and team success determined a players spot on the team, as well as length of tenure deciding many of the selections.
So here it is, my Real Salt Lake 15th Anniversary All-Time Best XI.
Nick Rimando (2007-19)
Was there ever a doubt?
The “Wall of the Wasatch”, Nick Rimando is the greatest goalkeeper in MLS history, and it’s not even close, as he’s become the all-time leader in league history in minutes played, appearances, saves, wins, shutouts and penalty kick saves.
During his 13-year run in between the pipes for the Claret and Cobalt, Rimando has been named to eight MLS All-Star teams (2010-16, 2019), while winning the MLS Save of the Year award twice (2012-13). His steady hand in goal guided RSL through penalty kick shootout wins in both the 2009 Eastern Conference final and MLS Cup final, leading RSL to the 2009 MLS Cup title while picking up MVP honors.
Rimando also became a steady presence for his country, being the choice third goalkeeper for most of his USMNT career. He was named to the 2014 FIFA World Cup roster and started in goal as the U.S. took home the 2013 Gold Cup title.
And who can forget his legendary save off his face?
Tony Beltran (2008-19)
The third overall selection in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft, Beltran became a key contributor and by just his second season helped RSL win the 2009 MLS Cup.
A two-time MLS All-Star selection (2013, 2015), Beltran’s 245 appearances ranks fourth in club history, while he was also capped three times by the USMNT and was a member of the 2013 Gold Cup championship team.
Jámison Olave (2009-12, 2015-16)
The anchor of the RSL back line during the 2009 MLS Cup title run, Olave racked up three consecutive MLS All-Star appearances from 2010-12. Add in being named to two MLS Best XI squads (2010-11) and winning the 2010 MLS Defender of the Year, Olave is the most decorated defender in Real history.
Nat Borchers (2008-14)
One of the best defenders in team history, Borchers was instrumental during the most successful time in Real history. He helped lead the Claret and Cobalt to the 2009 MLS Cup title and was named to the 2010 MLS Best XI squad while reaching the postseason six times in seven years, becoming just one of six players to appear in 200 games for the team (205).
Chris Wingert (2007-14, 2016-17)
One of five players in RSL history that have played 10 seasons with the club, Wingert was a steady presence on the backline of eight playoff teams during his tenure.
With 247 appearances for the club (third all-time), Wingert also guided Real to four cup finals in his career, capped off by winning the 2009 MLS Cup.
Kyle Beckerman (2007-present)
“The Captain” is an RSL legend. The nine-time MLS All-Star (2007-14, 2016) has helped guide the club for over a decade, including winning the 2009 MLS Cup. He is Major League Soccer’s all-time leader in appearances and minutes for a field player (non-goalkeeper), while also becoming a key member of multiple USMNT squads.
Beckerman was capped 59 times between 2007 and 2016, helping the U.S. win the 2013 Gold Cup alongside teammates Nick Rimando and Tony Beltran and being a key member of the 2014 FIFA World Cup team, starting all three group stage matches as the U.S. advanced.
Javier Morales (2007-16)
RSL’s all-time assists leader (81) and second leading goal-scorer (49), “The Maestro” was well known throughout MLS for his spectacular playmaking ability. A three-time MLS All-Star (2009-10, 2013), he was also named to the 2010 MLS Best XI squad and helped lead Real to the 2009 MLS Cup title.
In September 2019, Javi was honored at halftime of a match, being inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor and having his name and number added to the rafters of Rio Tinto Stadium.
Albert Rusnák (2017-present)
In three seasons wearing an RSL jersey, Rusnák has become one of the top playmakers in team history while leading the team to two straight playoff appearances. Through the 2019 season, Albert has tallied 27 goals and 26 assists, both in the top ten in club history (8th and 5th respectively).
Rusnák has also broken through at the international for Slovakia during his RSL tenure, making 23 appearances and scoring five goals for his country.
At just 25, we’re hoping for many more years of Albert roaming the pitch for RSL at the RioT.
Álvaro Saborío (2010-15)
Real’s all-time leading goal scorer (63 goals), Saborío was named MLS Newcomer of the Year for his debut season efforts in 2010. His 2012 campaign was truly spectacular, with Saborío scoring a franchise single-season record 17 goals and then following it up in 2013 by helping RSL reach the MLS Cup final.
Saborío not only made a big impact for RSL, but also his country. A native Costa Rican, he has registered 108 caps and 35 goals while appearing in nine total major tournaments for the national team, highlighted by the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
Jefferson Savarino (2017-present)
Much like Rusnák in the midfield, Savarino has made a big impact in his three seasons with RSL, breaking into the top ten in club history in goals (ninth) and assists (sixth), registering 21 and 20 in those categories.
Jefferson has also helped guide Real to the playoffs for two straight years, while also making nine appearances for Venezuela and scoring a goal in a friendly against the U.S. in June 2019.
Fabián Espíndola (2007-12)
During a six-year run for RSL, Espíndola helped them club reach the postseason five times, winning MLS Cup 2009 and reaching the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League final.
Currently fifth in goals (35) and seventh in assists (17) in the team’s record books, Espíndola was named an MLS All-Star in 2012, his last season with the team.
Stats via mlssoccer.com. Current as of October 15, 2019.