The MLS secondary transfer window — the one we’re in the middle of now — closes in eight days, and if Real Salt Lake is to sign a central defender, it has to be soon.
But while we’ve been talking for roughly two seasons about whether RSL should sign a top-level central defender, we still have yet to come to a close on such an effort.
Before we start our argumentation, let’s first address this: RSL general manager Craig Waibel has said he’s still looking to sign an experienced central defender. The following quotes are from an interview he did on ESPN 700 before the match started on Saturday.
Waibel: I do think we’ll add one more player… We do have plans. We’re still sorting out options for roster spots. Waiting for final answers.— Matt Montgomery (@TheCrossbarRSL) July 23, 2016
Waibel: I think defensively, we need to add experience. We have youth covered. In terms of attack, at any age they’re ready to impact game.— Matt Montgomery (@TheCrossbarRSL) July 23, 2016
The first and most obvious reason RSL should sign a central defender? Only once since April 16 did the team last achieve a shutout. We can talk all we want about the rise of Justen Glad and Aaron Maund, but for all their improvements and positive qualities, the simple fact of the matter is that we haven’t been close to good enough in this regard.
If the team can’t shut the opponent out, expecting them to win — or to have the forwards keep the team competitive — will be a futile task. We can talk about the team not finishing well enough, but that’s influenced strongly by the fact that we keep allowing teams to score.
Seriously. That’s one shutout since April 16. We can talk about the Copa America break being what really hurt our chances, but we shouldn’t ignore this fact.
With the repeated push to sign a central defender that has the experience necessary to succeed in MLS, it’s worth wondering why exactly we need that experience.
Young players are notorious for being just a bit inconsistent, and we’ve seen that Justen Glad, for all his immensely positive qualities, is in very much the same boat. If we’re to succeed, we need a central defender who doesn’t have that same issue and can, at the same time, guide Glad along the already very productive path he’s on. While you might argue that’s a function of coaching, I’d argue that’s a function of experience.
Our defensive depth simply isn’t what we thought it could be — Jamison Olave has been injury-prone (and I maintain that he’s a very, very good third or fourth-choice central defender, but let’s not argue about that right now), which leaves us with Aaron Maund, Justen Glad and Phanuel Kavita.
While Kavita could certainly grow into a strong MLS defender, he’s still learning the ropes with Real Monarchs. If tasked with performing, he might be able to cut it, but there’s a big question mark there.
While we’re clearly looking for an experienced player who would likely start week-in, week-out, it’s worth considering that the depth would be strengthened with an addition at the top.