The Offseason So Far: Keeping it in the family and taking care of business. RSL got their own Homegrown winger Brooks Lennon fulltime from Liverpool, and then signed Homegrown right back Aaron Herrera, while promoting RB/CB Taylor Peay from their USL reserve team. It also looks like deals for Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando – both legends are free agents – are close to done.
This is real stability, and given how good RSL looked during the second half of last season, why change? Stability is an asset.
In theory so is Yura Movsisyan, but the Armenian international DP forward is clearly not in Mike Petke's plans, and that brings us to the biggest issue surrounding RSL this winter: How will they resolve the Yura situation? He understandably wants to play, and understandably wants as much of his not-inconsiderable contract as is possible. RSL are willing/happy/eager to move him, but teams aren't exactly lining up for a 30-year-old striker on nearly $2 million per year who spent most last season as a backup and has never had a double-digit scoring year in MLS.
From the outside looking in, it's a game of chicken. No idea who blinks first, or when.
And that leaves RSL in a bit of a bind. Their DP slots are spoken for, they still need depth in defense and central midfield, and that means they can't go out and buy their way out of their center forward issue.
EDIT: One of those DP slots is occupied by Jefferson Savarino, who RSL purchased outright this autumn. I'd mistakenly thought they had exercised that option in the summer.
So... yeah. It's been a productive offseason already in Utah.
JAN. 2 UPDATE: They're in a tug-of-war with Bayern Munich for RSL academy product Taylor Booth, it seems. I expect we all know how that will play out.
I also expect to see Spanish No. 9 Alfredo Ortuño in Claret-and-Cobalt soon, probably as a TAM-level player. And that certainly means they're lighting a fire under Movsisyan with an eye toward showing him the door. I still have no idea how that will play out.
No news yet on either Beckerman or Rimando, by the way. Given their respective ages it's hard to imagine that they'd command much on the free agent market, but given their standing and history with the club, it's entirely possible that each will be able to get more than the going rate if they stay home. No Dirk Nowitzki discounts here.
JAN. 24 UPDATE: Ortuño signed, and Booth's in Germany. Both Rimando and Beckerman are back. Petke says that they're in the process of finding a mutually beneficial arrangement with Movsisyan, who was not at the first day of preseason (as was expected). Things are all mostly going according to plan, up to and including RSL punting on most of their draft picks (an annual tradition).
The one guy they kept – second-rounder Ricky Lopez-Espin – has a chance to stick as a back-up target forward. Lopez-Espin is slow, but he's big, has soft feet and good vision, is great in the air and just understands how to play the game. I'm actually pretty excited to see what he can do for Real Monarchs this coming season.
Craig Waibel's real work has come in the transfer market. In addition to Ortuño, RSL have picked up Welsh-American right back Adam Henley and American-in-Germany center back Shawn Barry. Both guys have been kicking around the second and third tiers of England and Germany, respectively, and both guys will have a chance to compete for the starting job from Day 1 (I'd say Henley's the favorite to begin the year as RSL's starting RB). This was under-the-radar stuff, but it's good work from the RSL braintrust.
That leaves this: RSL are for sure pursuing Tigres central midfielder Jesus Dueñas:
Nobody's going to mistake Dueñas for the most dynamic box-to-box midfielder in the league, but he's an in-his-prime Mexican international who's won everything there is to win in Liga MX (and CONCACAF), and is the kind of piece a team adds when they think they're ready to compete for trophies.
Ben Baer's cool on him, but I'm not. Dueñas is good, and it would be kind of a coup if RSL can get him from Tigres, where he's been since 2008.