Chris Wingert's return to Real Salt Lake was swift and seemed efficient, but it also came unexpectedly for the veteran defender, who spent eight seasons with the club from mid-2007 to the end of 2014.
In an interview on ESPN 700 with Bill Riley, Wingert, 33, talked about how his return to the club fell into place, emphasizing that his first choice was Salt Lake City. I've taken an excerpt of that interview and annotated it for ease of reading.
It started with surprise — and perhaps disappointment — but his 2015 club, New York City FC, showed surprising restraint and grace for a league newcomer that had only recently booted its coach from its ranks.
In all honesty, I told NYCFC, when they told me, it was a little bit of tough timing, because it was two days before preseason started, so I knew that most of the rosters around the league were going to be close to finished. I started putting a few feelers out.
My agent started putting a few feelers out to different teams. But I told NYCFC, right off the bat, they were good enough to me that they let me make the decision. They said, "We can do this any way you want, whether it's a trade, or we waive you; basically, you can go wherever you want as long as that team's willing to pick you up and has room for you."
And where else would Wingert want to go? He's said it before, but it bears repeating. But it was more than just finding a spot for Wingert — he also wanted assurances that he was actually wanted at the club.
And I told them right there, "My number one choice is definitely RSL, but I need to call RSL and see if they have room for me and are interested." We did that right way, and between talking to Jeff (Cassar) and Craig (Waibel) and Dell Loy (Hansen), I told them how bad I wanted to be there, and it was just a matter of if they could find a spot for me. (...) Basically, I just wanted to know if they wanted me back as bad as I wanted to be here. Once they said that was the case, then I was all for it.
Positionally, Wingert comes in having played a good deal of center back for NYCFC, and he played primarily as a left back for the club. He's also played as a defensive midfielder, back in his Colorado Rapids days (at least, I think that's the case — correct me if I'm wrong), and he's not afraid to play where he's needed.
I told them, as I have every season for the past however many years, that I'm willing to play wherever they want me to play. I'm not afraid of competing. Nobody's ever promised me a starting spot coming into preseason, nor would I expect them to. I've got to go out and earn my spot and show everybody that I'm fit and ready to go and that I deserve to be on the field.
And if you're wondering if RSL simply came around and picked up a player off waivers that they thought might be useful? Well, that's not the case, Wingert says. There was interest from other clubs.
The other teams that came in and showed a lot of interest and put an offer in for me, they respected the fact that I told them, "I'm going to be honest with you, RSL is my number one choice."
They all knew why, and they respected that. I appreciated that from them, and they gave me some time with the hopes that RSL would be able to finalize a deal, and they did.
The full interview is a good listen, and if you missed the link above, here it is again. Here you go. Click on it. You know, if that's the sort of thing you're into.