<freeform>Called up Real Salt Lake general manager <b>Garth Lagerwey</b> to bother him, because that’s the highlight of his job. Luckily for me, Lagerwey was Lagerwey and we spoke candidly for 20 minutes about a bevy of topics regarding his club’s 6-0-6, 24-point start through its first 12 matches of the 2014 campaign.
In starting, I asked about <b>Sebastian Velasquez</b>. I hadn’t seen RSL’s 23-year-old midfielder at training sessions over the last few days of availability, so naturally the question to Lagerwey was this:
“He’s got some personal stuff that’s he got to sort through, so we’re just giving him a couple days,” Lagerwey said.
As for a specific timetable in terms of Velasquez’s potential return to the club, Lagerwey said there isn’t one because he doesn’t anticipate the young attacking player to be gone much longer.
“He’s got some family stuff,” Lagerwey said, “he’s got to take care of it.”
With <b>Alvaro Saborio</b> off contending for a World Cup spot with Costa Rica, with <b>Joao Plata</b> down again with a left hamstring injury and <b>Devon Sandoval</b> picking up a small knock against FC Dallas Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium, who will play up top?
<b>Robbie Findley</b> made his 2014 debut Saturday, but isn’t 100 percent. <b>Jeff Cassar</b> said it himself Tuesday after training that Findley is working at finding his ideal shape, but isn’t there yet.
<b>Olmes Garcia</b> has yet to find the back of the net this season and hasn’t looked particularly dynamic throughout an entire match to date this season. To be fair, the 21-year-old has been thrust into several difficult scenarios, including replacing an injured Plata twice and partnering now with three different forwards in eight games played.
Sandoval is the logical candidate to replace Saborio for the time the Costa Rican star is absent, but the 22-year-old is once again battling injury.
Is it time to start burning the phone lines in search of other options, Garth?
“I don’t think so, just because we’ve got a number of guys on the roster,” Lagerwey said. “Don’t get me wrong, we’ve got some guys.”
One guy RSL doesn’t have — for the time being — is 19-year-old forward <b>Benji Lopez</b>. The RSL Academy product was loaned to USL side Arizona United in Phoenix, Ariz., and left May 23. Lagerwey said in a pinch, RSL could utilize midfielder <b>Luis Gil</b> and defender <b>Abdoulie Mansally</b>, who played as a forward with the New England Revolution for several seasons.
“I really don’t see us going outside with a signing to address [the depth up top],” Lagerwey said.
Loaning Lopez to the USL was for one specific reason: “It’s about getting him a number of games.”
The loan deal with Arizona United allows RSL to recall Lopez at the club’s discretion, but training with the club was only doing so much. In hopes of furthering his progression, RSL needed to get Lopez some consistent matches. Lagerwey said at this stage of Lopez’s career, the priority is to get the youngster games to work on his sharpness and overall play.
Our conversation transitioned to how RSL has fared over the course of the first 12 matches. Yes, we all know the club hasn’t lost, but yes, we all know that talking point has been exhausted several times over. Lagerwey said he’s happy with the way his team has started, but added, “I think we can be better.”
And laid out ahead of RSL is arguably the toughest week of the season. Three games in seven days, at Seattle, at Columbus and home to Portland before the World Cup break starts after June 7. Lagerwey said the 21 healthy bodies will be utilized over the course of the three-game span starting Saturday afternoon in Seattle. He reiterated that he believes RSL is the MLS club most-affected by the World Cup departures over the course of what could stretch until the end of July.
“Because we are so short-handed it takes every ounce of our focus,” he said. “Our good start could go away in the next week.”
I asked Lagerwey if he could rate how he thinks <b>Jeff Cassar</b> has done through the first third of the 2014 seasons.
“I think he’s done really well,” Lagerwey said. “I think Jeff’s exhibited good leadership already. He’s dealt with a couple of situations internally; he’s a guy that will hopefully be here for a long time. We would like nothing more than to hire a new coach every decade. As much as anything, longevity is a key for a coach. I think Jeff is making good long-term as well as short-term decisions.”