Real Salt Lake is in a bit of an interesting position. Only 22 players sit on the roster at current, and that number is increasingly likely to change wildly.
Let's set a target of 26 players, knowing that we could add some more — but we don't know roster rules for next season yet, and that's likely to change with USL Pro coming into play.
With Carlos Salcedo probably on his way out (but not out yet) and several other departures headlining our offseason so far, we've been thrust into a position of needing to revamp our squad a little bit. We've talked about that plenty in the last week, and we know that the arrivals of Demar Phillips and Pecka would change things a bit, as they haven't officially been added to the roster. Phillips is probably still awaiting a visa, while Pecka is not yet official or confirmed.
Aside from Salcedo, we've probably seen all of the outgoing movement we're going to see this offseason — we hope. If all these expected departures and arrivals go according to plan, we'll have 23 players rostered, and that's certainly not enough to start the season. Thankfully, we have plenty of time for that, but let's talk about the players we'll need to add.
We'll still need a center back or two, as we're stuck with only three. Aaron Maund could return, however, which would put us at 24 players. (He's not on the roster now as his option was declined, but he's renegotiating a new contract.)
We're probably set on full backs with Abdoulie Mansally returning. We've got Tony Beltran, Jordan Allen, Abdoulie Mansally, and Demar Phillips. Maybe a utility defender would be useful — a full back who could play across the back line. Now, maybe that defensive spot is filled by Justen Glad, who has looked more than capable (if a little slight) in his reserve and friendly minutes. That's something to consider.
Our midfield is looking a little slim — we have six players to fill four (or maybe three) spots. Assuming Pecka arrives, that's seven, and we probably want one more. This is especially true because John Stertzer has yet to go a long stretch without injury, and although both of his major injuries have been incidental to him, those sorts of layoffs can have fitness repercussions that last long periods.
So let's say we need another midfielder — there's another player, putting us at 25. It's hard to say what role Pecka fills, but he'd probably be a backup centrally and defensively. That provides some depth. If we do re-shape our midfield, though, we'll wonder what to do with Javier Morales — where does he fit in a three-man midfield, if he fits at all? Would he be better off playing on the wing in an inverted role? These are tough questions we don't have answers to.
We don't really need another forward, as we have five on the books, but if we go to a three-man forward line, it'll change our approach. The wide players in the front line could either be out-and-out wingers — maybe Abdoulie Mansally, Demar Phillips, or Jordan Allen — or they could be hybrid midfielders — maybe Javier Morales in a free role — or they could be forwards — maybe Sebastian Jaime or Joao Plata. This is tough to think about.
So what do we need? We haven't even reached 26. Let's say we need another full back — Jordan Allen as backup right back sounds fine, but he's also coming off an injury layoff, and his best role is probably further forward. Another right back puts us at 26.
That's three players to put us at 26 — Aaron Maund, a midfielder, and a right back. There are several sources we could use for that — the draft, internationally, or in NASL. We have two of our six international spots available, supposing Salcedo leaves. Could we use them, or might we save them for a summer signing?
This will be one wild offseason, and it won't get any easier until the roster rules are revealed, presumably sometime in January — but that, too, is contingent on CBA negotiations. Buckle up.