It's that time of year, when the first transfer window of the season slams to a screeching halt, and the second one is weeks away.
It is this time in which Real Salt Lake has found itself in a slightly tricky position: On one hand, RSL general manager Craig Waibel has said he is having "active conversations about a few moves" (Salt Lake Tribune), but that there's going to be movement in the summer.
That window closes tonight at 11 p.m., so with about 12 hours remaining, let's go through the roster and see what RSL needs to do.
It would be useful to first look at our roster and count our international-listed players. We have seven slots (thanks to our getting one back we had traded permanently to Chivas USA in the dark days), so that inherently limits the players we can sign. But by how much?
On RSL.com, the roster has only three players listed as internationals: Juan Manuel Martinez, Stephen Sunday, and Emery Welshman. It's unclear immediately if that's accurate, so let's go to an official club roster from one of their press releases.
There, we have five international players: Omar Holness, Juan Manuel Martinez, Stephen Sunday, Demar Phillips, and Emery Welshman. That leaves us with two open spots and with the evidence with we need to do some further investigation.
Does Real Salt Lake need to sign a goalkeeper? No.
I mean, unless Lalo Fernandez leaves, or Jeff Attinella leaves, neither of which seem on the cards or particularly desirable. We're fully stocked here, and here's hoping that's the case for a long time.
Does Re—OK, so we don't actually need to ask this obvious question. The answer is yes, it's just a matter of who and how many.
Obviously, we could use at least one center back. Our depth chart currently looks a bit like this: Aaron Maund, Justen Glad, Jamison Olave, Phanuel Kavita. Anyone else after that is an unknown quantity, as they're not typically central defenders.
So it's a safe bet that we'll hopefully, eventually sign one — but will that be to push Maund or Glad out of a starting spot? It's hard to imagine it won't be. We're probably only going to sign one, though, because once we have three defenders we're comfortable playing, we should be set. (And if you're going to run to the comments here to harp on about Jamison Olave, don't — the narrative is old and tiresome by now. If you're seriously not OK with Olave as a third or fourth-choice center back, we'll have to take a walk around the league. He's easily one of the best backup defenders we've seen.
Moving on: Does RSL need to sign a full back? That's harder to say. Boyd Okwuonu, who is spelling Tony Beltran at right back, was a potential loanee during preseason, but a concussion basically sapped that discussion. He's been good for Real Monarchs when playing, but it's been a bit since we've seen him. Is he close to recovered? As always with concussions, you never really know until you know.
If we do send Okwuonu on loan to earn regular minutes — because, honestly, he's not going to play ahead of Tony Beltran outside of, say, US Open Cup matches — then I'd expect to see somebody brought in.
Left back? I think we're set there, unless somebody moves out. I don't suspect somebody will be.
Here's where things start to get a little hairy. We brought in Stephen Sunday, who has been a revelation in the midfield. Kyle Beckerman has eased quite well into the season, looking every bit as important as ever. Javier Morales is still Javier Morales, even if he's yet to register an assist. But given who's scoring goals, I think that makes sense, and he's missed matches, too — I wouldn't fret that one too much. You should also consider that RSL plays demonstrably better with him out there. That's the best evidence.
But beyond those three, what do we have? Luke Mulholland, who is beloved by many RSL fans and can be a good change of pace substitution. His tenacity is helpful, but he's probably not a perfect fit in this tactical setup. We should also look at John Stertzer, who has appeared a reasonable backup for Kyle Beckerman — but we'll really get the test if Beckerman goes to Copa America and misses a run of games. But we're still missing a clear heir to Morales's throne, and that's the concerning part.
Jordan Allen has consistently been played in wide roles, despite being pegged as a potential heir to that position — and in doing so, he's looked really good at times. Like nearly all young players, there are matches where he's not quite as involved, but it's not at an alarming level.
Should RSL be looking at creative attacking midfielders? Probably. But whether that's as a long-term replacement for Morales, or as a potential backup (or replacement! You never know!) for a couple seasons — that's harder to say.
Oh, boy. This is where things get weird. Should RSL be looking at forwards? I think so.
Yura Movsisyan arrived and his been good (if not great), Burrito Martinez is quite excellent, and Joao Plata has been unreal. What about beyond that?
Jordan Allen has looked very good at times, showing he's still got that promise despite dealing with injuries in his first years in Salt Lake City. And Devon Sandoval (who gets far too much hate for a $50-60k backup) has been — and I mean this — very good this year. Think about it: How often do you get a backup center forward who can legitimately hold the ball up during the waning minutes of games, and who can do so better than most MLS forwards, starters or not? Not often. We've only seen him once when we've needed a goal, so we don't know how his goalscoring potential has evolved this year, but he's an excellent depth player on this team.
Olmes Garcia, on the other hand, has struggled with apparent ankle injuries, and he hasn't played more than 12 minutes in a match all season. He's also only played in three of our nine. That's not exactly an exciting record, especially if you consider that we're playing some real long chase-the-ball passing this year.
Finally, Emery Welshman has yet to make his first-team debut, having suffered a hip flexor injury early on. He's unlikely to be a solution to any problem RSL has, but he could be a developmental boost, maybe.
So what sort of player does RSL target? Obviously, finding the next Joao Plata should be a goal — he's a player that came in as an unknown and has displaced everyone around him. None of our forwards right now really seem to fit that bill.