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Why RSL might be fine after transfer window silence

It’s not the end of the world. Can we agree on that?

MLS: FC Dallas at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake didn’t sign a player during the summer transfer window.

I have my thoughts on this — I voiced them this week in The Salt, talking about how I don’t think signing a forward would fix our away form — and I’d like to talk more about the subject today.

We’ve all been clamoring for a signing, like we do most transfer windows. We even know that we were apparently in for a player: Zimbabwe striker Tino Kadewere. But we haven’t signed anybody, and we probably won’t sign anybody before the roster freeze date.

But I think we need to take a little walk around that thought, because it’s certainly technically possible that we could sign a player — sort of.

This is something I wrote about when we signed Juan Manuel Martinez in mid-August 2015: So long as MLS, by way of U.S. Soccer, requested the international transfer certificate of a player yesterday without that leaking out into the press, they could potentially finish the signing of a player following the close of the window.

I don’t think that happened, and that’s not why we’re here, but it’s worth remembering that the close of the window is not a guaranteed end of things. Let’s move on.

OK. That horizontal rule means we’ve moved on.

We’re here now for the real question at hand: Will RSL be OK without having improved through a transfer?

I actually think so.

It’s a weird thing, but I have reasons.

RSL isn’t all that bad, kind of

I know! We’ve been so, so bad on the road. But we’ve been excellent at home, where we’ve featured a truly rotating cast of players. We’re 9-1-2, and while that one home loss really got me down — and you, I’m sure — it’s not what we should base everything on. Sure, those two draws weren’t the best, but if we went 17-0-0 at home, we’d be the best team that ever was (at home, in MLS, blah blah blah) and that’s an unreasonable expectation, even if we technically could have achieved it.

I do know we’ve been bad on the road, and that’s what makes this team so frustrating. Our problem, I hypothesize, isn’t that we’re bad, it’s that we are tactically unaware on the road or that we’re mentally fragile as a team for some reason. It’s a little like we’re trying to play at home, maybe? As you can see, there are so many reasons we could be bad, but I really don’t think it’s just a case of player personnel.

We probably wouldn’t just magically get better on the road

We play in a league where great players can really change the fate of a team, but even on the road, the power of those players is limited. That’s sort of the nature of MLS. Could we get maybe three more road points through the end of the season? That would be a nice bonus, but if that’s the difference between us and playoffs, we’re in trouble.

I really do think if we want to be successful on the road, it’ll take a rethink of our approach from coaches and players. Without that, we could sign Juan Manuel Martinez Wayne Rooney Zlatan Ibrahimovic and it wouldn’t make us a great road team. We need to look internally before we worry ourselves with the external too heavily.

We only have one area of real need

I really only think we need a striker, and sure, that’s a big need — but if we don’t desperately need other players, signing them mid-window can be disruptive. This is only the case, really, because none of our players ended up leaving the club. Remember, Joao Plata and Albert Rusnak were rumored to be on their way out, and if either had left, making a move would have been of a much higher priority.

They’d probably just get injured anyway

But... it would have been nice

If you saw that horizontal rule, that means we’re moving on from a point for a minute again. I don’t mean to say that we shouldn’t have signed a soul. I actually think we would have been better off if we’d signed somebody good. Maybe we didn’t have the opportunity to sign someone worth signing? I guess that’s a possibility, but it’s a big world out there.

With the right signing, we could have really made a positive impact on the team.

It’s about more than just 2018

By signing the right player this year, we don’t guarantee anything for the rest of the season. Players necessarily need time to adjust. That’s why I think the biggest loss of our not signing anybody is the 2019 season. If we signed the right player and they transitioned well into the team, it would really help our chances next year.

Summer transfer windows?

For all the talk about how the rest of the world runs on a July-to-July schedule (which is largely true; I’m not disputing that), I’m starting to think that’s not actually an important point when considering MLS transfers as a whole. As fewer players enter into non-contract periods, the importance of a single window diminishes. Clubs tend to lock players down for longer periods with an understanding that they’ll be selling them for a profit later on. In that way, the summer window loses some — certainly not close to all — priority across the world.

All told, my premise isn’t that we couldn’t have improved by a signing, but that I think we might be OK without one. If we do improve, it’ll have to come from within, and I don’t think a signing would have shifted that mentality on their own.