Kreis, Real Salt Lake look to trialists to fill injury gaps

Jason Kreis

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LEHI, Utah — Real Salt Lake created some international buzz recently when the Costa Rican and Australian press picked up on the news of Melbourne Victory playmaker Carlos Hernández in camp here.

But in reality, Hernández has been just one of a handful of trialists who have come through the RSL training gates over the last several weeks. And while he is an intriguing prospect, he may be the biggest long shot of them all. 

Hernández joined forward Chris Agorsor, forward/midfielder Dustin Corea and defender Seth Owusu as the most recent players to get a chance to show RSL head coach Jason Kreis their best abilities.

RSL are in the forced position to scour for talent because of the season-ending injury to playmaker Javier Morales, but filling his shoes is no easy task.

“We face multiple challenges in trying to bring someone in to fill Javier’s shoes,” Kreis said. “First and foremost is style of play. Second is transition to the physical nature of our league. Third is to have to play on both sides of the ball for us. A lot of teams that play with a No. 10 expect absolutely no defending from them. 

“And fourth, and probably the most critical, is money,” Kreis added. “You’ve got to have money to be able to pay players and bring them over.”

Unlike the others, Hernández is a known quantity — a star for his Melbourne club and a World Cup veteran who has played alongside RSL striker Álvaro Saborío on the Costa Rican national team. However, he still has a year remaining on his current contract and would likely come at a much higher price than the lesser-known players at whom RSL has been taking a look. 

In addition, Hernández is known to struggle with conditioning, and that’s something that Kreis demands from his midfield. 

Another interesting trialist is Corea, who had originally planned to trial with RSL in the offseason but canceled in favor of a shot to play with the El Salvador U-20 team — a move that put him in national team limbo until recently. Corea had previously played with the US youth squad and failed to fill out the proper paperwork for the switch of national-team allegiance. 

“It was weird,” he said. “I didn’t expect it to happen. It just got cleared up about two days ago. I was going to go to the Gold Cup with the full team, but FIFA didn’t clear me to play. Now I can play with the full team or the 23s.”

Corea admitted that after backing out of the earlier trial, he thought his chances with Real Salt Lake might be done.

“I thought that once I didn’t come, that I wouldn’t get the chance to come again,” he said. “But I tried to come. I spoke with coach Miles [Joseph] and they invited me down here. When they told me, I was just happy to be able to come here and show what I can do.”

“Corea — I’m not really sure if he’s a midfielder or forward,” Kreis said after watching the 19-year-old over the last couple of weeks. “He kind of fits in that same role as Arturo Alvarez.”

“I think it’s difficult for us no matter what because we don’t have any money and because we expect a lot out of our players,” said Kreis, who seemed hesitant to play up any chance for new recruits in the summer window. “So we may be fooling ourselves to think that we can bring anybody in that can contribute in any meaningful way until we have a preseason.”