SALT LAKE CITY - Over the past month Real Salt Lake have been busy bringing in players to address the team's issues with depth. But with the international transfer window not opening until August 15, none of the new acquisitions have been able to suit up for John Ellinger's side.
That all came to an end this week, as new signings Adolfo Gregorio, Guatemalan international Gustavo Cabrera and Jamaican international Robert Scarlett are clear to play in Saturday's game against the San Jose Earthquakes at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Cabrera and Scarlett have been busy this summer with their respective national teams competing in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. But Gregorio has been off since early May when he played his last match for Darlington FC of Coca-Cola League 2 in England.
"The last time I played was May 7 in England," said Gregorio. "Since I've been back I wasn't able to play in any reserve games because I wasn't eligible."
He wasn't eligible because FIFA allows MLS teams to transfer players into and out from the league only during one of two transfer window periods. The primary window is from Jan. 1-March 31 and the secondary window is open between Aug. 15-Sept. 15.
Even though Gregorio and the other new signings weren't allowed to play until last Monday, they have been able to train with RSL and get into the groove with their teammates. The break turned out to be ideal for Gregorio, who completed a demanding schedule with Darlington and was able to take some time off.
"(The extra break) was actually good because it gave me some time to get my fitness back up," said Gregorio. "I took some time off. I had a long season in England. Maybe it worked out for the best that I had a couple weeks before I was eligible to play."
Salt Lake City is much closer to Gregorio's native Southern California, where he attended UCLA and helped the Bruins win an NCAA title his senior year. The All-Pac-10 standout then decided to cross the Atlantic and ply his trade in England. The pace of the game and direct playing style helped as Gregorio, a natural dribbler, diversified his game.
"When I was in England I definitely learned to get it and play it off quick and look for that open space," he said. "It definitely helped in my posession and controlling the ball. The pace there was really good: one- (and) two-touch all the time."
With Darlington, Gregorio knew he wasn't playing in a top-flight league. The experience was good, but like many RSL players, he wanted to come back and play for RSL head coach Ellinger.
"I liked England, it was a good experience," said Gregorio. "But I played under John and know a couple of these guys, and there's no place like the States."
Ellinger is familiar with Gregorio from his days with the U.S. under-17 national team. The RSL coach is looking for the 22-year-old's fitness and speed to break down opposing defenses.
"He's very fit and very fast, but he's still an excellent dribbler," said Ellinger. "He can run at people and beat them. He gets good crosses in."
Those abilities and energy have been waiting to get on the pitch for the last month. Gregorio feels his opportunity to prove himself could come as early as Saturday when San Jose visits Salt Lake for the second time this season.
"I'm definitely sure John will give me an opportunity (to play Saturday)," said Gregorio. "I'm sure he's going to give me some playing time and see how I do. If I do well, I'm sure playing time will increase from there."
Ellinger confirmed that although he doesn't plan on starting Gregorio, there is a chance he could come off the bench for his MLS debut against the Earthquakes.
"He'll be sub eligible," said Ellinger. "It's the same with the other guys - they have to earn their spot and get some sub time, see how they do and go from there."
Scott McAllister is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.