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With the summer transfer window a little more than a week away from slamming shut, Real Salt Lake is making a move. The club has finalized a deal for 19-year-old Paraguayan striker Pedro Báez, who will join RSL on a six-month loan from Paraguayan club Cerro Porteño, RSL general manager Craig Waibel confirmed to The Tribune Friday.
The loan deal also features purchase price terms, should RSL choose to keep Báez around for the long-term once the loan expires at the end of the season. The deal remains contingent on the approval of a P-1 Visa and ITC (International Transfer Certificate).
Báez was initially discovered by RSL head scout Andy Williams during the 2016 Toulon Tournament composed of U-20 level players from national teams around the world in France. Báez scored a goal in Paraguay's 2-1 win over Japan in late May. Waibel said Báez had been on Williams' watch list for the better part of six months.
"This isn't a knee-jerk decision," Waibel said. "We had some research done. We do bring him here with the expectation that he can show us enough to possibly make our job difficult to end the year."
Reports out of Paraguay began surfacing Friday morning that the young forward, a cog in Paraguay's youth national team picture, was destined to make a move to Major League Soccer and more specifically RSL. Waibel hasn't wavered in his desire to add more depth and versatility to the RSL attack while the window remained open. The club is currently down to just four pure forwards on the roster: Yura Movsisyan, Burrito Martinez, Joao Plata and Olmes Garcia.
The club's forward depth was thinned recently due to hip surgery for former Real Monarchs forward Emery Welshman as well as the recent six-month loan of striker Devon Sandoval to Rayo OKC in the NASL.
Waibel offered his scouting report of the incoming forward, saying Báez's technical ability consistently stood out during their studies of him.
"We know he's good on the ball," Waibel explained. "He's not the fastest player. He's not going to blow you away with pace like Olmes. Purposely, we didn't really look for that characteristic because we have Olmes. We wanted someone that can come into a game, hold the ball, keep possession, draw some fouls, score from movement off the ball and draw some free kicks in dangerous areas. This kid also has the ability to finish. Hopefully he hits the net once or twice for us."
As is the case whenever RSL obtains a foreign player midseason, Waibel said expectations for the youngster must be tempered due to the fact that at 19, Báez is packing up and moving away from home to a brand new country, culture and club.
"It's on us to really, really make him comfortable quickly to get him to a point where he can contribute for us," Waibel said. "Our expectations I would say is cautious, but at the same time, he's a young, promising attacking player and we've got to get him in here and see if he makes sense to have around here for quite a while."
If all goes according to plan, Báez has the ability to come in and compete for minutes, Waibel added. He doesn't expect the young striker to immediately contend for starting spots, either. The task awaiting the RSL locker room and coaching staff is getting Báez assimilated while the team remains in the thick of an air-tight Western Conference playoff race.
At what position does he exactly fit into RSL's 4-3-3 attacking scheme? Remains to be seen.
"I think the one thing we haven't been able to translate from everything we've watched is and this is a very difficult thing to do in scouting because our league plays such a fast, athletic, break-neck pace we're very interested to see where he's going to fit in the front-half of the field in terms of exploiting his strengths," Waibel said.
According to reports out of Paraguay, Báez recently made his debut with the first team after coming through the team's academy system. Two weeks ago, Báez's former Cerro Porteño teammate, Sergio Diaz, was signed by reigning UEFA Champions League winners Real Madrid on a reported deal worth six-million Euros.