SALT LAKE CITY - Real Salt Lake coach John Ellinger has had trouble getting both his offense and defense to show up at the same game this season. There was the early season scoring drought, where the defense was stalwart. But now that the offense is clicking, the defensive unit seems to be falling apart.
"Between injuries and call-ups it has been very difficult for us to get any consistency (on defense)," said Ellinger. "But we have got to change the way we are playing defense."
With the international transfer window now open, Real have taken some big steps toward doing just that. With Adolfo Gregorio taking a roster spot early in the week and Robert Scarlett and Gustavo Cabrera getting their work visas yesterday afternoon, Real's defense could look very different from the squad it fielded last week in a 4-2 loss to the Wizards.
Cabrera brings with him international experience, as a long-serving member of the Guatemalan national team, which can prove invaluable especially when he finds himself next to a seasoned international player like Eddie Pope.
"I feel like my national team experience has put against better players and helped me to read the game better and intercept passes," Cabrera said. "But with experience like Eddie Pope, he has played with his national team and in the World Cup. I hope I can help my team like him and we can get results."
Adding to the pool of national team players on Real's roster is another defender and Jamaican international Scarlett. A somewhat regular feature in the Jamaican player pool, Scarlett has also played in Russia and reminds Ellinger of another great player he has coached.
"He is like a DaMarcus Beasley," said Ellinger.
He has lighting quick speed and a great shot, and will usually figure as a fullback or even a wide midfielder. Something many people expect to see is a lot of quick runs down the flank.
"He is obviously a guy we are not going to hold back when he is ready," said Ellinger. "But he will most likely come off the bench this Saturday. He has to earn his time."
When he does earn his time he is expected to not only create opportunities for himself, but free up his teammates as the opponents try to cope with his speed, especially on the FieldTurf in Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Regardless of where and how much the new international acquisitions step foot on the field, the goal remains the same: make the playoffs.
"We are in crunch time. San Jose can afford to coast and drop a game or two - we cannot," Ellinger said. "Every game is a lifeline for us starting this Saturday with San Jose."
David Hale is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.