Espindola a top offseason priority for Real Salt Lake

Club must decide whether to pick up option on Argentine striker

SANDY, Utah — The Real Salt Lake front office has a lot of work to do between now and the first of the year. There is international scouting to be done, expansion draft decisions to be made, contract options on players to be considered and a SuperDraft for which they need to prepare.

According to coach Jason Kreis, however, there is a one particular contract situation that is squarely at the top of the to-do list.

“The one that’s first and foremost on our mind is Fabián Espíndola,” Kreis told media days after losing the Western Conference Championship to the LA Galaxy. “I believe that there is an option there that we’ve got to figure out if we can pick up, and, quite frankly, figure out whether or not we can afford.”

With available resources limited under the salary cap, the decision about Espíndola’s contract is not an isolated one, but one that must be considered in the context of the entire team. He reached MLS career highs in starts (25) and goals (10) this season, and added three assists.

“I think that Fabián is tricky, for sure,” general manager Garth Lagerwey said. “It’s expensive. It’s a big option. And basically you’ve got to decide if Fabián’s a Best XI striker or not, and if you think he is, then it’s easy.

“Fabi had his best year of his career for us. He was a major, major contributor. I think he’s an excellent player. It’s less about Fabian’s contract, and more about the salary cap.”

In addition to Espíndola’s situation, defender Robbie Russell, midfielders Ned Grabavoy and Andy Williams and forward Arturo Alvarez are all out of contract. Lagerway said RSL would need to make qualifying offers to Russell, Grabavoy, Alvarez and Williams in order to retain the right to negotiate with those players moving forward.

There are also loan options with specified prices to deal with for Yordany Álvarez, Paulo Jr., and Nelson González.

But none of those cases seems to carry the weight as the situation with Espíndola.

“To be clear, absolutely crystal clear, we want Fabián back,” insisted Lagerwey. “There is no question about that. I think he’s been an excellent player for us.

“He’s been here for a number of years. I think Fabián wants to come back. I think we want him back, and you hope [that] in those circumstances that is a contract you are able to work out.”