Competition? Saunders, Stephenson ratchet it up for RSL

TUCSON, Ariz. — Real Salt Lake are expected to complete the signings of midfielder Khari Stephenson and goalkeeper Josh Saunders sometime next week, a spokesperson for the club told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. And head coach Jason Kreis has very specfic reasons for wanting to bring in two accomplished veterans. 

“It falls directly in line with how we believe teams should be built, the philosophy of how we built this team in the beginning, the philosophy of competition at every position,” head coach Jason Kreis said on Friday. “Last year — and maybe even the last two years — we haven’t really had that. Because of our success and because of the salary cap.”

"What we had to do was trade some players, get some allocation money, and hopefully establish some real quality depth. You may suffer a little bit because your elite level players might not be quite as high, but you have competition every day and a real sense of team atmosphere where everybody is battling it out and sticking together."

Saunders and Stephenson have had strong performances during their preseason trials. Both started Wednesday’s 2-2 draw against the New York Red Bulls here at the Desert Diamond Cup.

READ: Lagerwey says deal close with Galaxy for Saunders

Saunders, 31, has been with the LA Galaxy the past seven years, and became the regular starter midway through the 2011 season. He backstopped the side to two consecutive MLS Cup titles, but was not re-signed when his contract expired at the end of the 2012 campaign. The Galaxy inked former Italian international Carlo Cudicini on a free transfer from Tottenham Hotspur in December.

Stephenson, 32, spent the last three seasons with the San Jose Earthquakes. After playing most of the games in 2011, he saw his minutes diminish in 2012, and was left out of the action entirely during the playoffs.

RSL take on the Seattle Sounders on the second matchday at the Desert Diamond Cup, Saturday at 6 pm ET. The match will be broadcast LIVE on MLSsoccer.com.

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