When Scott Garlick received a rare and lucrative job offer in commercial real estate, he felt it was too good to pass up.
Too bad for Real Salt Lake.
The third-year Major League Soccer franchise has found itself unexpectedly without its starting goalkeeper barely two months before the season opener, after Garlick abruptly decided to retire from soccer and accept the real-estate job in Florida.
"We were blindsided," general manager Steve Pastorino said.
Yet the team hopes to fill the void with a trade as early as today - at the moment, it has no goalkeepers on the roster with any experience in the league - though it could have avoided that had Garlick made his decision earlier.
RSL traded the rights to goalkeeper Nick Rimando to the New York Red Bulls just two weeks ago because it could not afford to fit a contract for the seven-year veteran under the salary cap, and Pastorino said the team would not have acted so quickly had it known Garlick would retire.
"Obviously, we're put in a difficult situation now," coach John Ellinger said. "So we'll just see what happens."
If a trade cannot be worked out, RSL will have to wait until rosters around the league are narrowed next week in the hopes of picking up an experienced goalkeeper on waivers. In any case, rookie goalkeeper Chris Seitz figures to get a lot more action this season than he or the team expected. The former All-American at Maryland was the No. 4 pick of the draft last month.
"We know he can do the job," Ellinger said, "but he's going to miss a month" while playing for the U.S. under-20 national team at the U-20 World Cup in Canada.
Garlick had talked encouragingly earlier this month about returning for a 12th season in the league, after starting all 31 games for RSL last year.
The 34-year-old had joined his teammates for preseason training in Florida, too, but informed Ellinger of his decision last weekend. He told his teammates about it Tuesday, team officials said, but did not return calls seeking comment about his decision.
"There's never an ideal time to lose a guy like him," said midfielder Chris Klein, a good friend of Garlick who shared a room with him during training camp. "It's going to affect us on a number of different levels, I have to be honest."
Klein said RSL not only loses one of the best goalkeepers in league history, but also a veteran presence in the locker room that is not easily replaced. Still, "whatever is going to make him happy, I'm happy for him," Klein said.
Garlick played for five teams in 11 seasons in MLS, and retires as the third-winningest keeper in league history, with 107 wins. He also ranks second with 1,021 saves, and fifth with 48 shutouts. For RSL last season, he had a 1.41 goals-against average as the team finished with a 10-13-9 record.
"He made up his mind and I respect his decision," Ellinger said. "Timing's everything, I guess."
RSL has compiled a 2-3-1 preseason record after training in Florida for 10 days, and leaves Monday for two weeks of training and three preseason games in Madrid, Spain.
Striker Luis Tejada is expected to join the team there, team officials said, after not arriving in Salt Lake City as scheduled Thursday because of visa difficulties. Tejada has missed preseason training so far, while helping his native Panama qualify for the Gold Cup in a tournament in El Salvador.
Meanwhile, Seitz and striker Jamie Watson are expected back in time to join the team in Spain, after playing for the U-23 national team in Japan. Watson suffered a knee injury, however, and spokesman Trey FitzGerald said the team was awaiting word on the severity of the injury.
RSL also released defender Kevin Novak as part of its roster cuts this week.
The 24-year-old defender had played 29 games in two seasons for RSL, including 25 starts last season. But with newly acquired defender Chris Lancos expected to back up Jack Stewart at right back, Pastorino said, "we think we can get better" by using Novak's roster spot for another player.