With Tony Beltran, RSL’s starting right back, out of contention for an anticipated nine-month period, Real Salt Lake is in a bit of a bind.
For obvious reasons, the team will need a right back that can start 10-15 matches before Beltran is back — but the solution they look for could have wider repercussions on the roster.
What’s RSL’s best option? Well, let’s go through a few.
Do nothing (or, don’t change plans)
RSL is widely expected to sign Aaron Herrera, a true right back, via the homegrown mechanism this winter. That could mean we’re sitting with a second-choice right back and one or two veterans to either start or play backup roles — but that’s a hard decision to make.
We’ve already brought back Demar Phillips; if we also brought back Chris Wingert, we’d be in a reasonable position, but Wingert shouldn’t be a guaranteed starter at right back at 35, and Phillips is absolutely more left-sided than right-sided in his play. Neither is ideal for taking a starting spot for six months.
We could, I suppose, give Herrera the starting position, but there’s tremendous risk in that. He’s never played professionally, and while he’s shown plenty of promise, we’d be putting a lot of eggs in one basket we haven’t even seen, much less signed.
Now, we do have Jordan Allen available, and while he’s certainly more of an attacking player than he is a defensive player, I’d wonder if we could move him to that position as a stop-gap. He’s capable enough there, but the injury specter looms large — can he last more than a couple months without injury? I’d like to think so, but that’s a big question mark right now, and I’m sure it’s playing out in Craig Waibel’s thinking.
Sign an international player
We know with some assuredness that we’re out and about, scouting players from all sorts of interesting places. We don’t really know who those players are, where they’re from, or what positions they play, so that doesn’t do us a whole lot of good.
But theoretically, we could sign either a young right back that could use a move up — think Albert Rusnak but a defender — and isn’t making progress in his current league, or we could sign a veteran at 31 or 32 that’s just looking to move to the U.S. and play for a couple of years. Either way, both options interrupt things a bit. If Tony Beltran remains in the five-year plan, then the second option isn’t ideal; if Aaron Herrera is in that same plan, then the first option isn’t ideal. Both could certainly end with us getting a better player on the books, but there is that aspect to consider.
We should be in a stronger position in regard to international spots, though — Omar Holness took a spot, but his option was declined, and there’s certainly a chance Jose Hernandez or Demar Phillips could get their green cards. We also have one spot we’ll be getting back from Minnesota United, so we’ll have seven on the books and potentially three or four open.
The other issue here might be that said players can be expensive — do we really want a TAM-level right back right now? Is that the best use of our resources? I can’t be the judge of this one, given we still don’t know what the financial situation will look like in 2018.
Sign an MLS player via... some mechanism
This is probably the most feasible option for us that involves adding a new player. There are many ways to sign an MLS player, and lucky for us, some of those mechanisms are coming right up. We have free agency, the Waiver Draft, and two stages of the Re-Entry Draft. There are some very interesting players available, too. Like...
- Tyrone Mears, 34 — this feels a lot like using Chris Wingert at full back, but he’s a year younger. I don’t think I’d sign Mears.
- Kevin Alston, 29 — with a sustainable cap hit, Alston’s a player we could look at in the Re-Entry Draft or through free agency, and even though he didn’t play for much of 2017 through hamstring injuries, he could be an interesting player to look at.
- Andrew Farrell, 25 — he’s not available through the Re-Entry Draft, but he is out of contract and could be available that way. Farrell has been a near ever-present for New England, and if we had a chance, maybe we should take it.
- Sheanon Williams, 27 — Williams hasn’t really found solid ground since leaving Philadelphia Union, and he played only sparingly at Vancouver Whitecaps. Could he be the sort of player we could bring in for a year and keep around as backup? He’d be available in the Re-Entry Draft.
Of course, there are plenty of other options, too. We won’t see any of this happening until at least mid-December, so we’ll have plenty of time to evaluate our options.