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Ricardo Gardner trial: Veteran experience, backup not a bad thing

Ricardo Gardner is shown here with a fine tackle on Jose Bosingwa, which few of us can really be opposed to.
Ricardo Gardner is shown here with a fine tackle on Jose Bosingwa, which few of us can really be opposed to.
Michael Regan

Real Salt Lake has brought former Jamaican international and heavily experienced defender Ricardo Gardner, 34, in on trial. This is probably not surprising to you, as it was first reported by the ever-excellent Aaron Falk of the Salt Lake Tribune.

Salt Lake Tribune: RSL brings in Ricardo Gardner on trial

Gardner played for 14 years for English side Bolton Wanderers, from 1998 to 2012, spending much of that time in the English Premier League and a period in the Championship. He made well over 300 appearances for the club in league play. He found playing time harder to come by as his time in Bolton drew to a close, though, and at 34 years old, he's without a club.

And now we have him in on trial.

And let's remember, it is just that: a trial. He's not been signed (unless nobody told me). He may have an English pedigree, but that doesn't really mean anything, does it?

A left back, Gardner is apparently being looked at for veteran backup — which, let's be honest, might be nice at left back. When both Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert have been absent, we've looked — how shall we put it? — poor, at least at the back.

Abdoulie Mansally hasn't asserted himself particularly well in his time at Real Salt Lake, and as he's the second-choice left back, signing Gardner doesn't look particularly kindly on his play. But at a mere 24, Mansally has time on his side. Gardner, quite obviously, does not.

Should we be interested in signing him? Falk reported that Gardner is still quite quick and skillful, and those are the first two concerns. As Gardner turns 35 next month, he's not exactly on the up and up. He wouldn't be a first-choice signing, unless he is freakishly fit. Sure, he might be a better option than Mansally in the short-term — but what does it do for us long-term? The answer is surely "not particularly much" when we're talking about on-the-field concerns, but one can never underestimate the impact of a veteran on the locker room.

It might well happen, and it might be a good thing. But it hasn't happened yet, and it might not be that, either. But if we're going to be signing end-of-career players with European experience, looking at a backup left back could be far, far worse.