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Sandy • Real Salt Lake sent Brazilian forward Paulo Jr. to second-division Fort Lauderdale on short-term loan, the team announced Tuesday.
The 23-year-old began the year as a crucial cog on Jason Kreis' side, starting in RSL's first five regular season games. Real went 4-1 over a span that included wins over Los Angeles and New York, receiving an assist and a penalty-kick goal from Paulo along the way.
However, his playing time dipped sharply after that. He totaled 15 minutes on the field in the next three matches. Paulo started three more times in the ensuing three months, but didn't manage another goal or assist. He heads to Florida after appearing in 14 MLS games this season. How long he stays isn't certain, but Salt Lake is hoping that more playing time will build his confidence.
"Paulo is a solid player," general manager Garth Lagerwey said in a statement. "We think that this short-term loan will allow him to score some goals and bring him back to RSL sharper than ever."
The recent acquisition of Justin Braun from Montreal may have made Paulo more expendable. Lagerwey said last week that Braun was to spell established players such as Fabian Espindola and Alvaro Saborio, as well as to mentor the team's younger forwards in Paulo and Emiliano Bonfigli.
Paulo's 2011 season he appeared in 11 games was hampered mostly by his inability to adjust to RSL's system, one that requires its forwards to chase the ball defensively. He and Kreis both expressed confidence in March that he had finally adapted. Now, it appears that they spoke too soon.
Paulo had played for Fort Lauderdale, part of second-division NASL, from May 2009 to September 2010 back when the team was still known as Miami FC. He was loaned to RSL through the remainder of the 2010 season, then brought back again for the entire 2011 season. In February, Salt Lake exercised its option to purchase the forward, signing him through 2014.
With the worst loss in the Kreis era in the books, reactions varied as how to best proceed. On one hand, Real Salt Lake would love nothing more than to forget Saturday's 5-0 loss to San Jose. On the other, players could feed off the embarrassing outing and try to prove it the outlier.
There's also the option of indignant rationalization.
"Let's be honest. The game changes after [midfielder Kyle Beckerman's] red card," said defender Nat Borchers, who sat out the loss with a strained quad but is back to full strength after five days' rest. "I don't think it's a 5-0 type of a game. … I don't think they're necessarily that much better of a team than we are.
"We really need to use that as fuel for our fire moving forward. We've never let a team beat us three times in a season. That's not the way we do things around here."
Rapids at RSL
P Saturday, 8 p.m.
TV • CW30