Real Salt Lake’s busy day on Monday didn’t come without plenty of emotions for Garth Lagerway, the man who signed the deals that sent two crucial players packing.
Lagerwey joined MLSsoccer.com’s ExtraTime Radio podcast on the heels of a deal that shipped defender Jámison Olave and striker Fabián Espíndola to the New York Red Bulls, and insisted that Real Salt Lake will be busy with the allocation money they’ve picked up in the deal.
But he also addressed what most already people know: Olave and Espíndola will be missed after helping put RSL among the elite clubs in Major League Soccer.
“It’s important that before we puff our chests out and talk about how excited we are with the new challenge, we have to remember how important Olave and Espíndola were to this club over multiple seasons,” Lagerwey told the show. “You’re talking about major pieces, major players. And to lose them, initially, is going to affect our team.”
Lagerwey said that while the club was sad to lose a player of the caliber of Olave – who the 2010 Defender of the Year and a was a two-time Best XI selection – they also have confidence in young players like Chris Schuler and Kwame Watson-Siriboe, who both stepped in admirably as injury limited Olave to a career-low 21 appearances last season.
But is there really a way to replace a player like Olave? Even Lagerwey doesn’t think so.
“You try to collectively defend in a little bit different manner than you would if you had him, and you try to find an effective mix with the guys that are there,” Lagerwey said. “We certainly feel like we have some players who are capable of that.”
Lagerwey said that both Olave and Espíndola wanted to return to the club in 2013 and that Espíndola (above), the fiery Argentine who posted career highs in both appearances (30) and assists last season (7), was emotional when he learned his RSL career was over.
“I think the conversation with Fabian was probably the most emotional, because of who Fabián is and how much he’s meant to the club, and how much he’s meant to our fans,” Lagerwey said. “That one was tough.”
The biggest reason for the trade was for RSL to get under the salary cap and bank some funds for what could be a busy offseason, with all eyes on fixing an RSL offense that went belly-up over the final month of the season. RSL failed to score a goal in either game of the Western Conference semifinals against the Seattle Sounders last month, crashed out of the CONCACAF Champions League with a scoreless home draw vs. Herediano, and were shut out five straight times across all competitions. It’s become part of a troubling trend that the club is eager to fix with their new financial resources.
“A big part … is identifying more players that can score goals for us,” Lagerwey said. “We’ve decided strategically that we’re willing to reallocate some of our salary cap that was maybe being spent more on defenders … and reallocating some of those resources toward attacking players.
“We’re still going to keep the same philosophy, the team is still the star,” he added. “But maybe we need more special players who can step up in big moments and score a goal.”