This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

When Garth Lagerwey and Jason Kreis sat down to plot their offseason strategy to continue rebuilding Real Salt Lake, they "knew that we were essentially an expansion team," Lagerwey said.

So they needed the right kind of player.

"We knew we definitely wanted American players who had experience playing abroad," Lagerwey said. "Anybody who played out of the country is preferable because it shows they can make the cultural adjustment. ... You either sink or swim, and if you swim and we find you, you're likely to succeed" in Major League Soccer.

The club also could not afford to bring in talented foreign veterans who simply wanted to join MLS for a "nice retirement party or nice vacation for a couple of years," as Kreis put it, describing the phenomenon feared by teams around the league that traffic in the global talent marketplace.

"We wanted to hear that they wanted to come here for the right reasons," he said.

So RSL put a lot of emphasis on interviews with their potential acquisitions - both in the transfer market and the MLS SuperDraft - making sure that either Lagerwey, Kreis or another member of the coaching staff spoke personally with all of them to get a sense of their priorities. They wanted to know whether the players were "hungry to win" and "put the team first."

"I think we've done a pretty decent job of that," Kreis said.

Certainly appears that way.

All six of the veteran players whom RSL acquired in the offseason are expected to make major contributions, either as starters or key reserves.

Two of them are Americans - defenders Ian Joy and Nat Borchers - while the other four are international players, although Ukrainian midfielder Dema Kovalenko is a naturalized U.S. citizen. Defender Jamison Olave of Colombia appears ready to grab a starting spot in place of the retired Eddie Pope, while target striker Kenny Deuchar of Scotland gives the team a new dynamic up top and midfielder Matias Cordoba of Argentina strengthens the depth in the midfield.

"All of them have done a very good job," Kreis said.

The only challenge now is to get everybody on the same page in time for the season opener against the Chicago Fire on March 29 at Rice-Eccles Stadium. After all, they're among 20 new players on the roster since the start of last season - but midfielder Kyle Beckerman said the transition has been going well.

"It's been pretty easy to bond," he said. "Everybody has come in with the same attitude, to really work hard and put the work in in practice and when that kind of thing happens with everybody's attitude, it's easy to get along. ...This group has been awesome. Everybody's been working really hard."

Which is just what the bosses were looking for.

mcl@sltrib.com" Target="_BLANK">mcl@sltrib.com

comments powered by Disqus