As Real Salt Lake built its roster from 2009/2010 the decision makers for the team had one thing in mind – putting together a squad that could be competitive mode over at least a three-year stint. This season has some similarities to that one. Namely, there are two key aspects that are important as the squad is being composed – getting younger, and staying flexible.
The getting younger part is easy to see evolving. The backline has gotten younger with Chris Schuler (25) likely to step in place of the recently departed aging veteran Jamison Olave, and Kwame Watson-Siriboe (26) waiting in the wings should Schuler or veteran Nat Borchers falter or as is the current case of Borchers, fall prey to injury. If more help is needed, Aaron Maund (22) and Carlos Salcedo (19) are also available.
The midfield is decidedly younger with David Viana (21), Enzo Martinez (22), Luis Gil (19), Cole Grossman (23) and John Stertzer (22) set to compete for the minutes of incumbents Ned Grabavoy, currently injured playmaker Javier Morales, and Will Johnson who now plies his trade with the Portland Timbers.
Up top, only Alvaro Saborio remains from a year ago and while an experienced Robbie Findley has joined the squad, they are joined by Devon Sandoval (21), and Joao Plata (20). There is also an expected arrival in coming days of a yet-unnamed young, Colombian striker should the details of an agreement and all of the affiliated paperwork go through without issue.
Even the beloved “Homeboy”, goalkeeper Nick Rimando, faces new challenges on his status of the man between the pipes with the arrival of former Real Salt Lake draft pick Jeff Attinella (24), to go along with Homegrown keeper Lalo Fernandez (20).
The benefits of youth are obvious. Young players are more malleable, and can learn the “Real Salt Lake” way. They also tend to be healthier overall. Young players are often cheaper, and if they develop into the players that they project to be, they could serve the team well for years to come.
“We got to a point where we were good but not great,” GM Garth Lagerwey told Keepin’ It Real last week. “We got to a point where we were good but not great. We haven’t won in three years and we needed a change.”
“We needed the ability to build again over a longer period of time,” continued Lagerwey. “We wanted to get as many talented kids in as we could, and hopefully develop them, and then over time build another consistent run of success.”
The downside of building with young players is that many times they don’t end up living up to expectations. That’s where the flexibility comes in, and the key is with how a general manager constructs the roster. Check back tomorrow and we’ll chat with Lagerwey about how the approach for this roster is different than it’s been for the last couple of seasons, and how RSL could enter roster territory that it’s never before found itself.