RSL fill one void with Alvarez, still looking to fill more
SALT LAKE CITY – Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis knows he has yet to fill some voids in his roster.
Kreis went through that list with reporters on Thursday, but started off by saying that one of those empty spots was checked off his list when the club came to terms with Yordany Álvarez, who will serve as the primary backup for holding midfielder Kyle Beckerman.
Acquring Álvarez – who played five matches with RSL while on loan from USL side Orlando City in 2011 – on a permanent deal, Kreis feels, is an important piece to the puzzle he’s putting together. Especially since he expects Beckerman to see significant duty with the US national team.
“[Beckerman] was the one guy that I never quite felt like we had a guy that could step in and to do the job even for one game,” Kreis told media after the team kicked off preseason camp. “We feel like we identified the guy that can step in and fill his shoes when he’s gone with the addition of Yordany Álvarez last year. And the fact that he’s come back with us this year, we feel very good about that situation.”
Still, that’s just one void filled in what, during the offseason, turned into a depleted midfield corps.
“You look at the fact that [Collen] Warner and [Andy] Williams both left us – Arturo Alvarez as well – so just a sheer numbers game,” Kreis said. “We need some guys to step forward and we need them to step forward quickly in the midfield.”
To restore his midfield ranks back to full health, the RSL boss is keeping a close eye on the guys at camp.
First round SuperDraft pick Enzo Martinez will help to add depth to that group, and the team has brought in a number of other candidates to battle for other openings. That includes SuperDraft Cinderella story Sebastián Velásquez, Supplemental Draft picks Benjamín Ubierna and Emiliano Bonfigli, and trialists Johnny Steele and Lewis Neal.
In addition to the midfield, Kreis is also looking for help along the back line.
Kreis indicated that he’s comfortable with outside backs Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert, along with center backs Jámison Olave, Nat Borchers and Chris Schuler.
RSL got some cover at center back when they acquired Leone Cruz, whom Kreis said was “the exact guy that we wanted who had played in some reserve matches with us last year and we were very impressed with him.”
And at fullback, the battle will be hot as four men – draft pick Diogo de Almeida and trialists Terukazu Tanaka, Samir Bengelloun and Wes Knight – vie to claim one of the two openings in that position.
Although there are a lot of new faces who may appear to be the routine longshots commonly seen in MLS preseason camps, Kreis insists that he feels strongly that the answers he is looking for are likely to come from within the group.
“There isn’t anybody in our camp right now that we haven’t had eyes on and watched over an extended period,” said Kreis. “We’re hoping that we have an answer there.
“There’s still a lot of assessment that needs to happen over the next couple of weeks to see whether we’re right. If we don’t, after the end of the first preseason camp, we’ll look again.”