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With limited roster flexibility this offseason, Real Salt Lake solidified core by picking up 2021 contract options on eight players

Real Salt Lake defender Justen Glad (15) and New York City defender Ronald Matarrita (22) go after the ball as Real Salt Lake and New York City FC play at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. RSL won 3-1.
Real Salt Lake defender Justen Glad (15) and New York City defender Ronald Matarrita (22) go after the ball as Real Salt Lake and New York City FC play at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. RSL won 3-1.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Real Salt Lake announced Monday it had exercised contract options on several key players from this year’s squad, solidifying its core heading into an uncertain offseason with a new ownership group still not in place.

With 25 players already under contract for 2021, it could be a fairly quiet offseason for RSL without discretionary funds to go above the salary cap.

Even then, general manager Elliot Fall said it would be unwise to exceed the salary cap until Dell Loy Hansen officially sells the team. The previous ownership group was reluctant to overspend on player salary, but that may change with a new person writing the checks.

“It would be naïve of us from a front office standpoint to hamstring ourselves as well. If we have an ownership transition that happens and that new ownership wants to invest heavily in that spot or wants to bring in a player of a certain caliber or a player of a certain profile, then we need to have that availability to do that as well,” said Fall.

Despite that, Fall said there is room under the 2021 salary cap and allocation money available to make the necessary roster upgrades to be more competitive next season.

“We do believe overall in our group, we believe there’s a lot of talent on the roster. It’s quite frankly a similar roster to the one that had won rounds in the playoffs each of the last two years. So we feel like there’s a lot of talent there and a lot to build on, but we also at the same time need to make changes,” said Fall.

RSL finished in 11th place in the Western Conference during the congested and chaotic 2020 season. It only scored 25 goals in 22 games, the fewest of the 12 teams in the West.

“Our No. 1 focus is get more dynamic and create more opportunities going forward. Part of that is putting the players we currently have in place in positions to successful, but part of that is going to be to bring in new talent, to bring in pieces that can add to the group.”

The eight players whose contract option was picked up by RSL were David Ochoa, Justen Glad, Erik Holt, Everton Luiz, Justin Portillo, Maikel Chang, Douglas Martinez and Tate Schmitt.

It declined options on four players, Alvin Jones and Giuseppe Rossi, and then homegrown players Luis Arriaga and Julian Vazquez.

Fall said releasing players who’ve come up through the RSL Academy was tough, but said he feels other players are more ready to challenge for playing time. That includes RSL Monarchs players Andrew Brody, Bode Davis and Noah Powder, who the club signed to 2021 contracts a few months ago.

Three players from the 2020 squad are now out of contract, Kyle Beckerman, Andrew Putna and Luke Mulholland.

RSL may still end up signing players who were released, or who are out of contract. Beckerman only made five starts and 10 appearances in 2020, and is just two appearances shy of 500 career MLS regular games.

“Kyle is a legend, Kyle is Real Salt Lake. We’ve had great conversations with Kyle and we want Kyle to be part of this club for a long, long time to come. What capacity that is in and how that situation works out I think we all need to continue to have that dialogue and those conversations so we can create something that works for us, but frankly more importantly works for Kyle.”

Each of Beckerman’s last two contracts weren’t announced until mid-January, so like RSL’s ownership status, his situation with the club could be in limbo into the new year.