RSL notes: Sam Garza on trial, injuries and World Cup

Published July 10, 2014 10:19 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Sandy • What goes into being a trialist at a professional soccer club? Sam Garza is finding that out right now. The 24-year-old former No. 6 overall pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft is on trial with Real Salt Lake a week after being waived by the San Jose Earthquakes. The Carrollton, Texas, native spent the better part of the last two seasons in Major League Soccer trying to find his way.

In 2013, he made five league appearances.

In 2012, he made six as a rookie.

Released by his first and only MLS club on July 2, Garza was invited to be on trial with RSL by the front office and coaching staff. Probably because RSL head coach Jeff Cassar has known Garza since the forward was 14, when Cassar was coaching him on an Olympic Development Team in Texas.

What is the coaching staff looking for from Garza?

"You're looking for work rate, obviously meshing with the locker room as quickly as he can, but you're looking for something special, something that maybe somebody on your team's not giving you," Cassar said. "Sam is athletic, strong, fast, a good finisher and whether he makes our team or not, he's a great player."

Cassar said he thought Garza might have been playing a bit out of position in San Jose as a winger the last few seasons.

"We're looking at him as a forward," Cassar said. "Again, it's extremely tough to make our team, but he's been somebody that we've been really keen on ever since he came out of college."

Injury front

Alvaro Saborio remains out for an extended period of time with a broken foot and defender Rich Balchan remains out of action with a lingering groin injury that has hampered him all year. But Cassar said Thursday that forward Robbie Findley and midfielder Sebastian Velasquez are "really close" to returning to training fully.

Midfielder Ned Grabavoy, dealing with a hip flexor injury since June 7, is also "getting really close."

"Not sure what the contribution of minutes is, but he's feeling good, feeling good the next day, which is the most important thing," Cassar said.

Said Grabavoy earlier this week: "It's more how it responds the following days after I play."

With nearly a full available squad training each day — Justen Glad is away with RSL-AZ Academy for its playoff run — Cassar obviously noted how important it is to have positions be up-for-grabs again.

"I think it just creates a competitive atmosphere," he said. "When you have a competitive atmosphere, it just makes everybody better. It makes my job harder, but it makes everybody better when they're having to compete every day and earn, not just the starting lineup, but traveling squad. When we're competitive in practice and we're pushing each other, it usually translates in the game."

After the massacre: Germany vs. Argentina

I asked Tony Beltran to put Germany's historic 7-1 trouncing of Brazil into context. The RSL defender shook his head and simply said: "I don't know when we will see something like that again."

Beltran said Germany punished Brazil for opening up and staying opened up despite being down superstar Neymar and captain Thiago Silva. The Germans scored five times in the first half, including four goals in six minutes.

"They're kind of like the new Spain," Beltran said, "but they play a little more direct, a little more athletic and they're just able to dictate the game. Every other team has sat back against them, but Brazil went out and played open and Germany punished them."

As a former goalkeeper, I asked Cassar if it was tough seeing Brazilian goalkeeper and Toronto FC man Julio Cesar left to dry by an awful defensive performance.

"It's tough," he said. "It doesn't happen a lot in a career, but when it does, it stings really bad."

RSL will have a rooting interest in Sunday's World Cup final in Rio de Janeiro as 34-year-old Javier Morales will continue to recruit players and staff to root for his home country of Argentina.

Moves around the league

Jason Kreis has his first former RSL player in New York City FC baby blue. The NYC FC head coach and former RSL boss for seven years signed former RSL goalkeeper Josh Saunders on Thursday. The 33-year-old goalkeeper was initially penned to be Nick Rimando's primary back-up in 2013, but tore his ACL last July and missed the remainder of the season. Saunders spent the last couple of months in Utah going through training daily with RSL in the final stages of his rehab to returning to full strength.

"Having had the opportunity to work with and coach Josh previously in our careers at Real Salt Lake," Kreis said in a statement, "I know what a valuable asset he'll be to our club."

In fellow Big Apple news, former RSL midfielder Jonny Steele and the New York Red Bulls mutually parted ways Thursday. The 28-year-old Northern Ireland international was acquired by NYRB on Feb. 20, 2013, in exchange for a conditional draft pick. In two season in New York, Steele had six goals and eight assists.

-Chris Kamrani

Twitter: @chriskamrani

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