So MLS teams are required to be down to their 30 man roster on March 1st, so when RSL took well over that number of players under contract, draft picks, trialists, and others into their pre-season training we knew it probably would be quick that some cuts were made and perhaps some fresh faces brought in to get their shot. Today 3 players were sent home and a couple of them are surprises as RSL's first homegrown player Donny Toia, 2011 free agent signing Chris Agorsor, and trialist Austin da Luz were released by the team.
While Donny Toia was a HGP and didn't count against the salary cap he did make $60,000 last year and that is a decent amount for a player who probably wasn't going to see much 1st team action this year. It is proof that doing well at the academy and signing a HGP contract is no sure thing that a player will develop as expected.
I had high hopes for Chris Agorsor when he joined RSL, he has a great personality and was one of the fastest players I have seen in a number of years. From day one RSL head coach Jason Kreis stated that Chris had to become better with the ball, and with RSL having 6 forwards in camp and Oliver Kupe finishing up his schooling it was unlikely that all of them would make it to the final roster. Reports from the first weeks of RSL's pre-season training is that Emiliano Bonfigli was able to match Agorsor's speed and is simply ahead of him with ball skills.
Austin da Luz was let go by DC United and brought in to fight for one of the RSL midfield spots, where there is a lot of competition. I also note that last year Austin's contract with DC had him making $82K, which might have meant that even with a new deal that he could have been more than what RSL had to offer.
what this all might mean after the jump:
So this clearly sends a message about how some of the new faces are doing so far just 2 weeks into the RSL pre-season. Perhaps no bigger than, Emiliano Bonfigli, who was picked up in the supplemental draft in January and according to twitter reports has been fairly impressive in all the practice and scrimmages that he has taken part in. I believe that RSL is likely to start the season with 5 forwards on the roster, and while I thought that Emiliano's international status might be a strike against him making the RSL roster, clearly that may not be the case and may indicate that the some of the current roster players who were pursing their green cards may be close to getting them.
I think it also says that there is a high level of confidence in the fitness levels of both Paulo Jr., and Cody Arnoux who were sidelined for large chunks of the 2011 season with various injuries. I have very high expectations on both of these guys, even more knowing that Alvaro Saborio is going to be recovering form his off season surgery. Both Paulo Jr. and Cody have the potential to burst onto the scene for RSL in a huge way in 2012.
Homegrown players are a risk, simply put it is very similar to pro baseball teams selecting high school players in their draft and hoping one day that they might make it to the show. For every one that makes an impact in MLB, there are hundreds who never advance beyond the "A" or "AA" level, it is a risk to look at a 15-16 yr old kid and projecting what his future might hold. I do expect that we will sign more of them as the system gets more mature, and I expect that while some of them will fall along the wayside of their journey to being a 1st team player with RSL, that we will start to see them making more and more of an impact.
I expect that we will probably see another round of cuts made before the team makes their second trip to Arizona, which will take place on February 20th when they will head to Tuscon for the Desert Diamond Cup. I believe that RSL will likely head into the regular season with 18 of 20 Salary Budget Players and with 8 of 10 Off-Budget players, by leaving 2 Off-Budget player slots open the team would receive $35K in allocation money for each slot, and $70K in allocation money could be a big factor in the final RSL roster. That would mean the team could well start the season with 26 players on their roster, which would leave room for mid-season pickups as well as save some cap room. Just as a note RSL had 27 players who saw action in a MLS match for them in 2011, so that 26 number may not represent as much depth as we would like, but it does reflect players who might actually be making an impact for the team in 2012.
So what do you think of the first round of cuts? Would you have done something different?
OFF MY SOAPBOX