The transfer window ended last Thursday with four departures and three signings. Fans are frustrated with all the shortcomings on and off the pitch. We want to champion the league as we did between 2009 to 2014 and forget the troubles of the Dell Loy era.
Before diving into where the club might head, let us review what happened:
- The club declines to extend the loan of Chris Kablan, and he returns to Belgium.
- SK Beveren signs Everton Luiz in Belgium with no transfer fee
- Jonny Menendez is loaned out to Velez Sarsfield in Argentina for a year with a buy option.
- David Ochoa is traded to DC United for $75K in GAM. The potential addition of $300K in GAM and 30% of the sale-on fee if he signs a new contract with DC
- Pablo confirms that negotiations for Gustavo Cuellar are dead in an interview with El Show RSL.
- RSL pulls out of deal for CM Facundo Perez of Lanus in Argentina
- Danny Musovski signs from LAFC for $250K GAM.
- Braian Ojeda signed on a yearlong loan with a buy option from Nottingham Forest. He occupies a U22 initiative slot.
- Bryan Oveido signs a 1 ½ year contract with a 1-year extension option.
Out of everything that happened, I believe the sale of David Ochoa to be the headliner. Not a good look for the front office to get pennies for your highest valued academy prospect.
At the beginning of the year, when David Blitzer and Ryan Smith bought the club, they said this in an interview regarding investment in the team:
To best sum up their answer: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and we want this team to become a league powerhouse. We could start comparing RSL with the other teams and franchises, but the details and circumstances are too complicated and irrelevant to our current position.
For the second year, RSL exceeded expectations from top pundits and analysts. To believe before the season that RSL would be where they are now without our top goal scorer, and captain Damir Kreilach would qualify you as the most optimistic fan in the country.
While the ownership has said they want to win, the lack of ambition in player acquisitions contradicts their statements. From Cuellar who was linked since February, to Cristian Arango, who the club “definitely spoke about,” according to Pablo Mastroeni.
Criticism of the club shopping in the bargain bin for talent has grown more consistently. Following the recent signings, this proves true, as the three had a combined total of 744 club minutes last year, less than what Bobby Wood has played this season (911’).
These acquisitions do not look like they were brought in to make an immediate impact. They are in dire need of reinforcements right now, especially at the striker position, but we are yet to see any significant investment in player signings.
So, what is the goal for the front office? Is just making the playoffs good enough? Why didn’t they bring in the necessary players to cement their place and compete for the cup if not?
Or are we, the fans, being impatient and looking at things too critically? Since we aren’t on the inside, we can’t see the big picture or the specifics that are outside the club’s control. The club should have and could have done things to change these errors, but what is done is done. We can look forward to seeing where this may lead.
A couple things we need to keep in mind with how difficult it is to sign players. The club must agree with the player, their current club, their agent, and the player’s family before a deal can be finalized. Examples of this are found throughout RSL’s history. In February, Anderson Julio had an original price tag of around $2 million by San Luis. By April, it dropped to $250K. Juan Manuel “Burrito” Martinez terminated his contract with the club because his family wanted to return to Argentina. Gustavo Cuellar chose to stay in Saudi Arabia after they hired a new coach. And agents are like lawyers in the sports industry. They will complicate any situation if they believe they can be further enriched or the right offer is not drafted.
What is the club going to do in the future? Some say the roster has worsened. But these signings are all depth pieces replacing other depth pieces, and upgrades when you compare them side by side.
Everton was a defensive center midfielder with a physical presence. The 34-year-old has been replaced by 22-year-old Braian Ojeda. He has started to play for the Paraguayan national team, even though he had limited minutes at Nottingham Forest.
Ojeda is here on loan, so if it does not work out, he can be sent back to Forest. However, if he grows into the team and becomes a consistent contributor, RSL will be the first club in line to be offered to purchase him upon the termination of the loan. He was reported to have been bought by Forest under $2.5 million.
Kablan played for SK Beveren, a Belgium 2nd division team and another Blitzer club. Before being loaned to Salt Lake, he fell out of favor with the new coach at the midpoint of the season and was not with the first team. Even though he was a natural left-back, Mastroeni opted to play right back Andrew Brody on the left instead. Brody’s assists in the goals against LAFC and San Jose supports the coach’s decision.
Bryan Oveido has not played a single club minute this year but has been called up to play for the Costa Rican national team. He is a left-back who has World Cup experience from 2018 and can also play as a left midfielder (where Justin Meram is currently). Oveido played for Everton from 2012 to 2017. Although he is 32, he brings considerable depth and experience to a small pool of fullbacks and potential relief for Justin Meram.
Danny “Moose” Musovski comes in from LAFC as a 3rd string striker. A similar situation as Erik Holt in Salt Lake. His place on the depth chart reflects more on the quality signings LAFC has than his talent. He has played on the wing but is a natural center forward. Cordova is the opposite, a natural wide forward being played as a 9.
Musovski has proven he can score and contribute in the MLS with 11 goals and 5 assists in 1,842 minutes. Some argue that this was possible because he was surrounded by star players in Vela, Rodriguez and Arango. But as we look back at the past four games against Sporting Kansas City, FC Dallas, San Jose Earthquakes, and LAFC, RSL can create chances but has failed to convert many of them.
Moose is brought in to replace Jony Menendez. Jony was playing out of position in very limited minutes while under Mastroeni. He was a left winger who played in more of a front three system like 4-3-3 or the 4-2-3-1 Freddy Juarez used. In this system he played 400 minutes in 8 games. Once Juarez left for Seattle his minutes declined, and he played 476 minutes in 13 games.
With Mastroeni using the 4-4-2 and 3-5-2, Jonny became a weak link in defense and would get caught too far up the field in transition, leaving space in behind in the outside channels and vulnerable to counterattacks. He played as a striker down the middle two times this season but never was able to put himself ahead of Cordova (Enough said).
There are also rumors of clubs interested in Rubio Rubin. The club may be attracted to sell Rubin while interest is high and is bringing in Musovski beforehand. It would have been very unwise to sell him in the past window considering Cordova is currently the only other forward in the pool with Wood, Kreilach, Musovski out injured, and Jony loaned out. But in the winter transfer window, there is a possibility that RSL could pocket a reasonable transfer fee.
The past transfer window was disappointing, no doubt. RSL fans can only hope for the team’s revival coming into the season’s final stretch. The goal is to secure a home playoff berth with the minimum expectation of making the playoffs before decision day.
The club will return to previous and new targets after the World Cup with a longer preseason and settled ownership than this year. If the right moves are made, we could start the return to the championship contending prowess from 9 years ago. The question that will give fans a glimpse of the FO’s optimism is asking what their time frame is to win the MLS Cup.