PHILADELPHIA – At least on paper, the MLS SuperDraft was kind to Real Salt Lake once again.
RSL may have had the second to last pick of the first round – No. 18 overall – but they still came away with a player that ranked No. 1 in the MLSsoccer.com pre-draft ranking of right wingers: California fullback/winger Ryan Neil.
"We had him very high on our list," said RSL manager Jeff Cassar. "So as each draft pick is going by, we're starting to shuffle around in our seats a little bit. We didn't have to cross off too many names. We had him rated that high."
According to Cassar, Neil can play either fullback position given he's equally skilled with his left and right foot like current RSL left back Chris Wingert. That versatility – Neil also played at right midfield in his best showing at the recently concluded Player Combine despite a swollen right foot – is going to give the rookie a good chance of sticking with the 2013 MLS Cup finalists.
But it wasn't just luck that led to the pick. RSL are known for their work scouting the college game and they even host their own combine. In fact, Cassar, GM Garth Lagerwey and assistants Andy Williams and Craig Waibel all watched Neil play in college with Waibel scouting him for the University of Washington, where he served as coach.
However, the work doesn't stop on the field. The staff also made sure to interview the player while at the Combine in Florida.
"His interview process was very important," Cassar said. "It was an excellent interview. He's a winner and he's someone that's going to be perfect for our locker room."
Neil's addition takes RSL to 27 players, making roster spots hard to come by during preseason with two SuperDraft rounds still remaining on Tuesday.
"I'd say we're 99 percent there," Cassar said of the makeup of his squad entering 2014. "We have a 3rd and 4th round pick and one spot to make our team. So we're really happy with it. Adding Ryan was a great piece."