The Real Salt Lake reserves made three impressive signings to close out the transfer window that doesn’t fit the typical MLS reserve team mold.
Real Monarchs SLC have made quite the impressive jump this season in the United Soccer League. The Real Salt Lake reserve side are currently the top team in USL with an impressive 51 points through 22 matches, ten more points than their closest competitor. On their way, they’ve set the USL for most consecutive wins, and are tied with Reno 1868 FC for a league best plus-24 goal difference.
The figures and stats are definitely impressive, but arguably the most impressive feat is how far the Monarchs have come in just their third season. The SLC side took dead last in the Western Conference in their first season and only climbed up to eleventh last season. The Monarchs overhauled almost their entire roster and put together one of the best rosters outside of Major League Soccer.
Much of their success can be attributed to the signings of MLS veterans Sebastian Velasquez and Chandler Hoffman along with USL standouts Taylor Peay, Daniel Haber, Nick Besler, and Charlie Adams. Heading into the back half of the season, the Monarchs have only added to their arsenal.
New Attacking Pieces
Real Monarchs made three signings in the summer window, all of them attacking pieces. First, the club made the impressive signing of Costa Rica international Diego Calvo, along with Argentine forward Juan Mare. Then, the Monarchs closed out the window with the signing of another winger, former Philadelphia Union player Danny Cruz.
Calvo made the 2014 Costa Rica World Cup squad and has spent most of his career playing in his nation’s top flight. The 26-year-old is the same age as Velasquez and Hoffman, making him ineligible for special loans with the first team for matches like the US Open Cup and friendlies. The same will apply to Cruz, who is 27. Signing the two older players at a position that RSL currently has full of younger talent is definitely a curious move. Starting wingers Joao Plata and Jefferson Savarino are both younger than their Monarch counterparts, while USNYT U-20 youngsters Brooks Lennon and Sebastian Saucedo are currently seeing time behind them. That isn’t even considering Jordan Allen and Ricardo Velazco, who both saw time on the wing this season with the first team before getting injured, although an argument could be made they are better suited at other positions.
Signing both Calvo and Cruz, along with Hoffman and Velasquez, are moves that are more in line with the independent USL teams, rather than the MLS reserve sides. All of them could likely be considered “fringe” MLS players. Cruz, Hoffman, and Velasquez have all spent multiple seasons with MLS sides, while Calvo has been playing regularly for CONCACAF Champions League caliber sides in Costa Rica most of his career. There isn’t necessarily a “development” process for them, they are more just waiting for a chance and a roster spot to open up.
More Moves Ahead?
With RSL opening up a senior roster spot by moving Aaron Maund to close out the window, it wouldn’t be unlikely to see a Monarchs player make the jump to the first team, especially considering the recent moves. RSL currently don’t have an international spot available, which means Calvo will have to hold tight. The signing of Juan Mare could be an another hint of who is going to get that spot.
Mare, a 22-year-old striker, has spent the last few years with teams from the top two divisions in Mexico but never registered any playing time. Despite not getting any minutes, Mare still has the reputation of being an exciting prospect and is the more typical signing you would see from a reserve side. There are plenty of things unknown about the Argentine that only playing time will reveal.
Given the fact that Yura Movsisyan is the only healthy true striker on the first team roster, who has also fallen behind Luis Silva in the depth chart, it makes sense for RSL to try to add some depth to the position. Chandler Hoffman is likely to be that person.
Hoffman currently sits just one tally behind the USL goal leader this season. He had a strong 2016 season with Louisville City FC, and at 26 it would seem he has proven his worth in the second division enough to warrant a first team contract as a depth player. Signing Hoffman to the first team allows for Mare and other forwards to get some much-needed minutes, while also solving RSL’s striker depth with a great in-house option.
A Supplemental Signing?
Real Salt Lake also has a Supplemental Roster spot open. The rules for a supplemental spot are slightly different in that the player taking up that spot has to be younger than 24. With the Monarchs bringing in two new wingers who don’t fit that demographic, along with current starter Daniel Haber being 25, it could be a sign that former RSL Academy player, Andrew Brody, could also make his way to the first team.
Brody has made 17 starts for the Monarchs this season, typically opposite of Haber. He has played a key role in the high-powered Monarchs attack, and only he and English midfielder Charlie Adams currently fit the age requirement. With there not being an international spot available, all signs point to Brody. The next question then becomes whether or not Brody would be best served with a spot on the senior roster right now? It’s unlikely that he would overtake Lennon or Saucedo currently as a bench option, and even more unlikely that he would pass Plata and Savarino without injuries.
Regular minutes are what Brody needs, and also what he is getting with the Monarchs. Signing on the Supplemental Roster wouldn’t take those away, but it would take him from Monarchs’ training sessions and place him with the first team. It could be a way to see if he can take his level of play to the next level day in and day out. RSL doesn’t have to fill that spot and could leave him with the Monarchs to now compete against two new experienced veterans for playing time. Another way to see if he can step up.
While the Summer Transfer Window is now closed, the MLS roster freeze is just around the corner. All moves need to be completed by September 15th. Will we see some shuffling between the first and second team? Only time will tell.