Heading into the MLS SuperDraft, most teams are looking for a player who can contribute. Real Salt Lake are looking for a player they won't have to cut almost immediately.
“I don't think we've ever cut a first-round pick, but I would say that that could be in play,” RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey told reporters on Tuesday in a conference call.
The problem, if there is one, is that the team is pretty much set heading into the 2014 season. Most of the 2013 squad, which came within a kick of winning the MLS Cup, is returning.
“We have 26 players signed as of right now,” Lagerwey said. “It is definitely the most kids we've ever had signed going into a draft. That means we feel very good, not only about our starters but about our reserves.
“And it means it's going to be very difficult for anybody we draft to make an impact right away.”
The Claret-and-Cobalt have the 18th pick in Thursday's first round; they don't have a pick in the second round. And Lagerwey said he's not targeting a player or a position, he's looking for the best player available at any position.
“The good news is we're in a pretty solid position,” he said. “The bad news is it does make it a little trickier in terms of drafting. We won't have a choice but to take the best player available and hope they'll make our team better.”
For the first time since Lagerwey became RSL's general manager in 2007, he's headed into the draft with a coach other than Jason Kreis, who departed for NYCFC. And the promotion of former goalkeepers coach Jeff Cassar to head coach played into the offseason decisions Real Salt Lake made in the past few weeks.
Lagerwey said that, had Kreis remained, “Perhaps we might have been more aggressive” in making changes.
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But with Cassar taking over, they decided to “try to preserve as many options as possible for Jeff so he can go into preseason and make his decisions and we can react off of those.”
“It certainly was a difficult position,” Lagerwey added. “We had to make all contract decisions literally when we landed from Kansas City, within 24 hours of the [MLS Cup final].”
Whoever RSL ends up drafting faces a daunting task. Lagerwey talked repeatedly about how the team has “two players at every single position on the field.”
“But to be clear, I think with the current team, this is a player who's going to be fighting to dress,” he said. “To make our top-18 guys on game day. And that is a position that's probably different from what we've been in before.”
And while he held out the possibility that his draft pick might not even make the team, Lagerwey said that's not the plan.
“I hope we get it right and get a good guy at 18 that can help us, that we think can, at least, help us long term,” he said.