Caught up with Real Salt Lake general manager Garth Lagerwey after practice on Saturday, and talked almost exclusively about the roster puzzle the team faces in the next couple weeks before it must make its final cuts on Feb. 29.
Lagerwey confirmed that Alvaro Saborio and Javier Morales are both in the process of obtaining their green cards. He doesn’t want to speculate when they’ll be approved for fear of ticking off the immigration officials, but whether it happens before Feb. 29 or after, Lagerwey said freeing up those international roster slots will be very beneficial.
He said that in a perfect world you’d always have an empty international slot for a summer signing. As of now, RSL only has six international slots. Most teams have eight, but the previous technical staff at Real Salt Lake back in 2005 to 2007 traded a few away.
RSL’s three-man rotation of Robbie Russell, Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert has served the team well for the past four years. Lagerwey said that without Russell, it’s time to move in a different direction.
“We’re not going to look for that third starter. What we want is four guys in competition for those spots. We add a number to maybe distribute those minutes over more players. We’ve had injury issues with Wingert, Beltran and Russell over the last three years, and that system worked well, but I think we’re going to try a little bit of a modified approach to see if we can get four guys who are capable of playing, maybe making a little less money,” said Lagerwey.
RSL has been successful swapping pairs of center backs in and out for various competitions through the years, and Lagerwey said the team wants to try that with its outside backs.
After Wingert and Beltran, as many as six players are still in the hunt for those two spots. Terukazu Tanaka, Diogo de Almeida, Lance Laing and Kasali Casal will all be in camp in Tucson this week, and Lagerwey said that RSL still may call back and sign Wes Knight and Samir Bengelloun.
Knight is the only player of the six who is a domestic player, and that might give him a leg up on the others because of RSL’s shortage of international roster spots (currently only one vacant).
“Especially when two players are close, you’re going to take the domestic player. It’s just common sense. You’re going save that roster slot,” said Lagerwey.
Lagerwey said that Leone Cruz has done very well this preseason, and is a good bet to make the team. His biggest competition for the fourth RSL center back spot is Carlos Salcedo, 18, of the RSL-Arizona Academy.
Salcedo will train with the team in Tucson over the next two weeks, and from the coaching staff will decide between Cruz and Salcedo.
Lagerwey also went out of his way to highlight 16-year-old midfielder Jordan Allen as a very promising player from the Academy as well.