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Eastern Conference Championship

Retooled Real Salt Lake look to feed their need for speed

LEHI, Utah — When former Philadelphia Union striker Chris Agorsor became available, it came as no surprise for Real Salt Lake to invite him as a trialist with Fabián Espíndola being the only healthy, natural forward available on the roster.

However, Agorsor's arrival also highlights a dimension that the once-swift RSL attack has sorely lacked this season: speed.

“We’re just different than we used to be," said Kyle Beckerman of the missing element in RSL's offensive efforts. "We used to be dynamic and created chances more easily. So it’s just different.”

Beckerman admitted that RSL's need for speed may have left the club more vulnerable to pressure from opponents unafraid of being burnt by a swift striker.

“We kind of get it with Paulo [Jr.],” said Beckerman, “But the way Robbie Findley played — we’re still adjusting to it — that little chip over top that he can turn it. [His speed] just seems to space teams out. If teams aren’t really afraid of that, then they can just keep coming, coming, coming.”

RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey agreed with Beckerman's sentiments while offering his own assessment on the club's speed issues.

“I would claim that Yura Movsisyan was really, really fast,” said Lagerwey. “Between Yura, Robbie and Paulo — we have always had a very fast forward in our squad which allows us to stretch defenses and give us the kind of vertical component. Paulo has not played this year, and so we’re looking for another forward.”

Converted holding midfielder Jean Alexandre has picked up the slack in his last three starts with two assists and a goal that earned him both Player of the Week and Goal of the Week honors after RSL's 2-0 victory against the Vancouver Whitecaps on June 4.

Although Alexandre does not carry a reputation as a speedster on the pitch, he could still prove himself as a valuable commodity, in Lagerwey’s view.

“He’s more similar to [Álvaro Saborío] than he is to some of the other guys,” said Lagerwey. “And we don’t have a similar type — more of a big body that can hold a ball. He has a skill set that we can use at a forward. And for Jean, in terms of his career, if he’s versatile, that only helps him get into [18-man rosters]. He’s done well enough that he’s proven that in a pinch he can contribute there.”

For his part, team captain Beckerman is appreciative of what Espíndola and Alexandre have brought to the table as a makeshift tandem.

“They’re working their tails off,” said Beckerman. “They’re trying their best, and they’re doing really good. They’re giving us a chance to win and tie games.“

Newly acquired Armenian forward Artur Aghasyan may also have shown a brief glimpse of what he can do in a 19-minute outing in Philadelphia.

“He’s come in and worked hard, and buzzed around and been active,” assessed Lagerwey. “I think we need to see more of him. We don’t have any forwards, and he’s in the mix.”

Meanwhile, Paulo Jr. — a player upon whom the team had hoped to rely during this stretch — is on the path to recovery and may return to the pitch by July 1 after a hip flexor strain has kept him out of action since mid-April.

“Hopefully, Paulo will be healthy soon,” said Beckerman. “He gives us quite a bit of speed up top.”