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Chris Kamrani
Chris Kamrani covers Real Salt Lake for the Tribune.

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Why RSL went after and signed new DP Sebastian Jaime

The rumors started circulating earlier this week when reports out of Chile stated that one of the more dynamic forwards in the country’s Primera Division was on his way to Major League Soccer. They later developed into a possible move to Real Salt Lake as the August MLS transfer window closed Wednesday afternoon. It became increasingly clear that the an August addition — what probably would have been considered a relative surprise a few months ago — was likely.

Garth Lagerwey, Dell Loy Hansen, Jeff Cassar and the rest of the RSL front office struck a deal for a new Designated Player before the window closed Wednesday. The papers were signed and filed and the relentless work put into scouting a midseason addition came to a close when 27-year-old Argentinian Sebastian Jaime agreed to become the club’s newest forward.

On Friday, the club announced the signing, which still hinges on Jaime obtaining a P-1 Visa, of a Designated Player, its first major foreign signing since acquiring the rights to Alvaro Saborio in 2010.

But why now? Why make a high-profile move midseason for a third DP?

"We felt like we had to do something with Saborio being out, and being out for a long time," Lagerwey said in our 20-minute phone interview Friday evening. "We’re certainly hopeful he comes back and he’s as good as new, but we also felt like we needed something now, needed something to put us over the top … we felt like we could use another option."

Jaime is that guy. A seven-figure fee brought him from Chilean Primera División club Unión Española to RSL after four years with Los Rojos. He netted 39 goals in 124 appearances with the club and helped lead Unión Española to the Supercopa de Chile and Chilean Primera División crowns in 2013.

And if/when the Visa documents go through and the U.S. government gives Jaime the green light, Lagerwey said he’ll be ready. He’s fit, he’s gone through a preseason with Unión Española and has already played in three league matches. The main attractant to Jaime was his flexibility as a goal-scorer, Lagerwey said. Which is key playing next to Saborio, RSL’s all-time leading scorer.

The key criteria in signing Jaime, the club hopes, is his potential effectiveness both up top solo and/or running with Saborio or any other of the club’s forwards. Lagerwey said the big move isn’t a knock on the club’s current stable of forwards, who he praised for different reasons in Saborio’s absence since May. He said this move has been in the making since 2012 when Saborio and former forward Fabian Espindola had banner years, but zero help behind them.

Building versatility and depth in the attack was the main objective. Joao Plata, Olmes Garcia, Robbie Findley and Devon Sandoval are proof the club took the rebuild up top seriously. Adding Jaime should only help.

"This signing is to make our team better," Lagerwey said. "We have to move a player out and we expect that transaction to be finalized Monday, but I think most folks agree we are going to have a better team on Monday."

How RSL came to identify Jaime was through a series of scouting initiatives and a massive video database that stretches across the globe showcasing professional soccer players. Lagerwey said he anticipates the club watched Jaime play 30 times in various matches through the database.

The club first noticed Jaime’s goal-scoring talents in 2012, but as Lagerwey noted, the forward’s price was too high then. RSL couldn’t afford him two years ago. But they waited it out and when the market settled and his asking price returned to an optimal number, the club began doing more research.

Lagerwey and Cassar took separate trips to Chile last month and Lagerwey said he scouted at least a half-dozen players while in South America. Admittedly, RSL’s general manager isn’t the biggest fan of mid-season signings. It’s a tall task to ask a player to come in and make an immediate impact.

Seems Jaime is a different beast.

Now comes the waiting game. Lagerwey said he doesn’t anticipate Jaime being here and available until at least the Aug. 22 game at FC Dallas, but it obviously all hinges on the Visa process. It’s clear Jaime is a player the club has invested a significant amount of change for the now, and for the future. If he arrives in form and can gel with the club quickly to help ease the transition into Saborio’s hopeful return in late September or early October, it would be a major step forward in keeping pace with — or possibly leapfrogging other clubs — in claustrophobic Western Conference playoff race and Supporters’ Shield.

"It’s not a reasonable expectation he’s going to come and blow the doors off the day he sets foot here," Lagerwey said.

Whether Lagerwey likes it or not, expectations will be enormously high for Jaime. The next two months just got an added kick to them.

-Chris Kamrani

Twitter: @chriskamrani



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