Real Salt Lake have a pretty simple plan for the upcoming SuperDraft: Build some immediate depth, but more importantly, secure three players with long-term potential.
They RSL braintrust have put a lot of effort into making sure they hit those marks. However, they aren’t expecting they’ll find an immediate game-changer with their picks.
“I think it’s a decent group,” RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey told MLSsoccer.com of the draft pool as he scouted them from the MLS Combine in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. “The true impact guys are in the Top 5, but beyond that, I think there are still a number of good players.”
While RSL still have a core group intact and should field a very competitive starting XI, they are looking to add a piece or two this offseason that could fit into the regular rotation. After losing Robbie Russell (trade to D.C.), Collen Warner (Expansion Draft) and Andy Williams (retirement) – each of whom played in at least 24 games last season – they’ll need reinforcements.
“The college kids are for depth,” explained Lagerwey. “If you’re talking about replacing frontline players, then those are going to be international players or trades.”
That’s an opinion that wasn’t reached simply over the course of the Combine – the Claret-and-Cobalt have been watching the best and brightest for months.
“The vast majority of the scouting happens between September and November,” said the RSL boss. “You are going down here [to the Combine] to tweak your view a little bit one way or another.”
In addition, the team uses the down time in between Combine games for grilling each of their potential selections.
“Literally, we divide ourselves up as a staff into two different rooms and we have a set of player interviews for each room over big chunks of two different days and we try to talk to every player that we’re interested in,” said Lagerwey, who estimated that they’ve sat down with nearly 60 prospects. “You just get to know them and get to know their background.”
The staff then get together as a group and try to make sense of it all. That group includes Lagerwey, head coach Jason Kreis, assistants Jeff Cassar, Miles Joseph and C.J. Brown, as well as Williams, who moved from the playing ranks into a scouting position after announcing his retirement in December.
“You sit in the room and you have long conversations, and the coaches get tired of me talking,” joked Lagerwey. “Everyone sees the game differently. You throw it all up on a board and then you talk through your decisions. That’s what yields the ranking.”
It’s that ranking that guides them in their selections, although it’s not quite as simple as one list.
“There is a level of detail where we walk through every possible scenario before you go sit down at that table. You have players ranked by positions, but our philosophy is, you take the best player available. We need first and foremost good soccer players, and then we’ll figure the rest out later.”
And Lagerwey has humble and perhaps realistic expectations of what these months of work will yield.
“We have three picks in the first two rounds,” said the RSL GM. “I think we’re positioned to select a player that would hopefully make our team, and hopefully more than one.”