The summer transfer window is creeping to a close — August 4, if you’re curious, which is now just eight days away — and Real Salt Lake has yet to make a deal in the window.
Before we get pedantic: Yes, RSL did add Diego Luna after the close of the primary transfer window. He’s only played 63 minutes for the first team in nearly two months since his acquisition. Now, a lot of that time was spent with the U.S. youth national team setup, and I don’t want to begrudge him that.
Now that we’re through that, let’s get to the meat and potatoes. RSL has moved out three players inside the span of this window (Everton Luiz, Jonathan Menendez, and short-term-loanee Chris Kablan,) and it appears that Pablo Mastroeni wants players added to the squad. Here’s a tweet from Joseph Hutchison, who writes for this very site, with some crack reporting.
As far as he’s aware, RSL was never interested in Luis Suarez.— Joseph Hutchison (@someRSLfan) July 27, 2022
- Seems like the Cuéllar deal is basically dead. Carlos Gruezo was another option at the 6, but that got shut down by Augsburg it seems.
- Pablo wants a 9, a 6, and a left back this window still. (2/6)
With the transfer window closing in eight days, I don’t think it’s likely that we sign players for all three positions. It’s possible, I suppose, but we have basically no evidence that we can pull that off. Anything approaching it would be a welcome surprise.
Let’s turn our attention now to Real Salt Lake’s executive vice president of soccer operations, Rob Zarkos. He gave an interview in friendly territory, released last Friday, to Trey Fitz-Gerald, the club’s director of player relations, over on his podcast, Bleeding Claret and Cobalt. It’s a wide-ranging and revealing interview, so it’s worth your time. I’ve transcribed the portion about the club’s transfer strategy here.
I see a lot of teams spending a lot of money as a way to endear themselves, and sometimes I don’t know if they’re doing it if it’s the right player to fit what they do. I think the biggest example, no disrespect to Chicago. Look how much money they spent over the last three years; they cannot solve the culture piece. I’m not saying their locker room sucks, I’m just saying, those players all being a unit, playing together, rather than just having a bunch of high-cost players on the field, great individuals — but do they play as a team?
I think there was a dearth of anything happening over the 18 months where we didn’t have an owner. It was a struggle for us, we were so locked in. I think we did really well with what we had. I think the idea is, ownership’s come in, we’ve got ownership, we’re going to do this. The push-pull of that is, we have our coach, who’s a big culture guy, who’s built a locker room that he feels is so tight that it’s going to get him where he goes. While we are on the hunt — Kurt (Schmid, technical director) and Elliot (Fall, general manager) have been working non-stop on this stuff — the piece has to be — one — something Pablo needs — but he feels fits the locker room and doesn’t detract, because we’ve seen a lot of locker rooms where one bomb can blow it up. Right now, maybe we are punching above our weight in third (place in the Western Conference.) But it’s a fine balance between the spend to bring someone in and disrupting where we are right now, especially with Dami and Bobby and where they’re at.
I can’t comment on where they’re at, but I do know where they’re at. You’re getting two big pieces back. OK, they’re not Cucho (Hernandez) at $10 million, but is that decision going to affect the team, which could then affect results when the team is firing on all cylinders? That’s really a balance that I don’t know that people think about, because it’s a living organism. One wrong call can really affect that when we’re already doing well. Can we be doing better? Yes. Did we drop some games? Yes. But it’s MLS, we have so many games in the season. Really, right now, that is the balance. It’s not cheapness, it’s not ownership unwillingness. It’s that balance of the locker room right now to go forward with that and continue that and nurture that so nothing goes sideways.
Look, we do our due diligence, we interview players, all that. But Pablo has to feel that this piece will be additive and benefit. I’m not putting it on him, I’m just saying that’s the mentality of the club. So the guys are working hard. I know Kurt’s looked at literally thousands of players. There’s a lot of players out there, but do they fit the way Pablo wants to play? Do they fit our principles of play? Are they in a position we want to play? When you come down to it, how does that affect the group? So, it’s a balance, and I know people are probably frustrated. I would say it’s not inaction based on laziness, it’s careful action at this point.
So, what’s next? Will RSL sign a player in the next eight days? Time will tell. But I think we have a more clear of the club’s transfer strategy as a result of Zarkos’ interview, and I think we can start to get a sense of what Pablo Mastroeni might be looking for in his squad. Are the two compatible, especially inside such a tight window? Only time will tell, I suppose.