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Western Conference Preview

By Jon Szekeres




TUCSON, AZ - FEBRUARY 23: Kyle Beckerman #5 of Real Salt Lake shoots the ball past Alex Caskey #27 of the Seattle Sounders during the first half of the FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup Championship match at Kino Sports Complex on February 23, 2013 in Tucson, Arizona
TUCSON, AZ - FEBRUARY 23: Kyle Beckerman #5 of Real Salt Lake shoots the ball past Alex Caskey #27 of the Seattle Sounders during the first half of the FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup Championship match at Kino Sports Complex on February 23, 2013 in Tucson, Arizona

2012 record: 17-11-6 (2nd in Western Conference, Eliminated in Conference Semi-Finals)

Additions: F Robbie Findley (Trade W/ Timbers), GK Josh Saunders (Free Agent), F Joao Plata (Trade W/ Toronto FC), M Khari Stephenson (Free Agent)

Losses: F Paulo Jr, M Will Johnson, F Fabian Espindola, D Jamison Olave

Overview: An impressive regular season meant absolutely nothing in the playoffs, and some high priced players were jettisoned as a result. Gone are names like Espindola, Johnson and Olave, but important core players still remain. Kyle Beckerman is the pulse of the midfield, while Alvaro Saborio remains the marquee name up front. He'll miss some time with National duty, but the crafty Costa Rican is easily the most important player up front. Real Salt Lake did a nice job of keeping a good number of talented players while still shedding salary, so a playoff appearance is expected.

Player to Watch: Alvaro Saborio scored 17 goals last season, and the club will need him to be at his best yet again. If Saborio struggles, or (knock on wood) falls victim to injury, it could be a crippling blow to a perennial contender.