Sandy • Sebastian Jaime was no longer just a name in a report at 10:29 a.m. Monday.
The striker slipped on his new Real Salt Lake colors, arriving at the club’s training pitch, America First Field, with his boots laced, the No. 23 between his shoulder blades and a sea of new faces and names to learn. The 27-year-old Argentinian made his debut as a member of RSL 17 days after the club announced his signing from Chilean club Unión Española, a move that was solidified Aug. 6 in the waning hours of the transfer window for Major League Soccer.
Sebastian Jaime file
Position » Forward
Birthdate » Jan. 30, 1987
Hometown » La Plata, Argentina
Previous club » Chilean Primera División club Unión Española (2011-2014)
Statistics » Scored 39 goals in 124 league appearances with Unión Española in three seasons
Acquired » Signed to a contract with RSL on Aug. 8, 2014
He’s here now.
The club’s newest Designated Player — Jaime’s acquisition was a seven-figure fee — is tasked with learning a new system, new tendencies of other players and finding a way to be game fit as soon as possible to keep RSL in the hunt.
"Obviously the pressure is going to be there," Jaime told The Tribune through a translator, "but I’m going to try and get to the point with the guys. The season is already going on, and I’m going to try and not waste any days of practice."
Both RSL coach Jeff Cassar and general manager Garth Lagerwey have tempered the notion that Jaime’s late-August arrival will serve as an immediate boost to RSL’s potent attack. The club remains without all-time leading scorer Alvaro Saborio, who is ahead of schedule in his return from a foot fracture sustained in late May, and has seen Joao Plata produce 11 goals in his breakout year, his second season with the franchise. The final step for Jaime is acclimating.
"Obviously he’s going to play," defender Chris Wingert said. "It can be good, it can be not good — it’s just yet to be determined. I’d like to think that we have a really easy group to fit in with because of the guys and how friendly everybody is and welcoming. Hopefully the soccer part will take care of itself."
Jaime arrived for his first day of training with fellow Argentinian Javier Morales, Olmes Garcia and Plata. Before the day’s sessions began, the new striker — who arrived from Santiago on Friday morning — made the rounds introducing himself to his teammates. As soon as Cassar’s whistle blew, Jaime jogged around the training field with the group, did technical drills with Saborio and went through passing drills in the same outfit as Luis Gil and captain Kyle Beckerman.
RSL has another striker now part of the chase for another trophy in Sandy.
"It’s probably going to be tough for him to adapt quickly, but I think our job is to be there for him as he has any questions, more specifically Javier and the Latin guys will be there for him," goalkeeper Nick Rimando said. "On the field, hopefully he adapts quick because he’s our big player that they brought in."
After training Monday, Cassar and Jaime went to the chalkboard at Rio Tinto Stadium to discuss specific roles of strikers in RSL’s system and where his responsibilities will lie when the time comes to make his debut.
"I know the quality’s there," said Cassar, who along with Lagerwey scouted Jaime in Chile in July. "He’s just trying to find his way right now. ... It’s just like going into a different work place completely and trying to figure it out, but he’s got the right attitude and it’s going to be fine."
High-profile midseason signings are a rarity in Major League Soccer. They’re even more rare if you go back through RSL’s 10 years as a club. Prior to the pricey move for Jaime, RSL hadn’t made a late-summer splash since the swoop for the Argentine trio of Morales, Fabian Espindola and Matias Mantilla in Aug. 2007. Lagerwey has reiterated that while Jaime’s a forward signed to help now as well as the future, a player moving to a new club and new country needs time to assimilate.
"I had a lot of anxiety to come here, but finally I’ve made it and I’m really happy to train today with my teammates and be available for Jeff," Jaime said.
There’s a chance he will be Saturday in the Bay Area.
Cassar told reporters Monday that he anticipates RSL’s recent addition to make the trip to face the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday night in Santa Clara, Calif. Jaime must show progression with the team in training each day this week and understand the schemes on each side of the ball to make his official debut.
"This week," Jaime said, "I’m going to figure it all out."
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