In recent years, Real Salt Lake has used Major League Soccer’s summer transfer window to address specific roster needs. Not long after coach Mike Petke was hired in 2017, the club picked up defender Marcelo Silva. Last summer, RSL searched high and low for a center forward, but that didn’t come to fruition at the time.
With this year’s summer window just around the corner — it runs from July 9-Aug. 7 this year — RSL’s approach is likely to change. The club has seemingly found its striker in Sam Johnson, bolstered its midfield with Everton Luiz, and seen homegrown players like Corey Baird and Sebastian Saucedo ascend. So it would appear that Salt Lake has no immediate needs.
But that doesn’t mean general manager Craig Waibel and the rest of the front office won’t attempt to improve the team. The mechanisms just might look different than before.
“We’ll consider multiple avenues, in this window especially, that perhaps we haven’t been open to in the past because our roster is now deeper than it’s ever been in terms of the talent both on the field and on the bench,” Waibel told The Salt Lake Tribune.
The avenues to which Waibel referred primarily have to do with players’ value in the international market and within the league. RSL has for years been in a multiphase rebuild centered on developing its homegrown players and complementing them with veterans in key positions. Now the club is at a point where some of those players could be sold or traded, putting RSL in not only a better financial position, but also a more competitive one on the field.
“We’re now a team that has enough interesting players and talented players that perhaps a move in the league to strengthen a position will make sense,” Waibel said.
Some of the names that have been floated recently are Jefferson Savarino and Joao Plata. Savarino, who is currently on international duty with Venezuela for Copa America, has reportedly received interest from two English Premier League teams lately. The Tribune reported last month that RSL was shopping Plata to at least one Liga MX team.
Petke has seen both those reports. While he said that he doesn’t focus on rumors “whatsoever,” he did acknowledge that them existing could mean a roster change.
“Those rumors are out there — players we have, a couple are sought after,” Petke said. “Time will tell.”
The good news for RSL this time around is the organization seems content with the majority of its players. Johnson and Luiz have made a good impact, Waibel said, and many of the younger players have met or exceeded the club’s expectations of them.
Still, it’s not as though the entire roster is untouchable.
“Right now, overall, we’re pretty pleased with the majority of our players,” Waibel said. “But we have a few that are below the expectations we had and we’re sorting through the reasons why. It’s never just the staff. It’s never just the player. It is always a shared responsibility in this organization to figure out why.”
With the first half the season over, RSL is at 19 points and sits seventh in the Western Conference. Last season at this time, the club had 22 points. Waibel said points don’t dictate whether the club will make a move at the transfer window.
The general manager, who signed a multiyear contract to stay with RSL last December, said that when the MLS schedule came out and he analyzed it, he projected the team would have between 16-20 points due to the road-heavy schedule in the first 15 games.
“I think it was a respectable first part of the season,” Waibel said. “I think with the difficulty, we handled most of it pretty well.”
REAL SALT LAKE AT CHICAGO FIRE
At SeatGeek Stadium, Bridgeview, Illinois
Kickoff » Saturday 6 p.m. MDT
TV » KMYU
Radio » 700 AM
Last meeting » RSL 2, Chicago 1 (Aug. 4, 2018)
Records » RSL 6-8-1, Chicago 4-6-6
About Chicago » Has two wins and two draws in the last six games. … C.J. Sapong leads team with six goals. … Averages 2.1 goals per game at home. … Lost only one game at home this season.
About RSL » Albert Rusnák and Sam Johnson lead team with five goals apiece. … Coming off two-game losing streak in MLS play. … Tony Beltran listed as questionable with a knee injury. … Jefferson Savarino is with Venezuela for Copa America.