This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
They call it the war room.
The walls of the conference room attached to Real Salt Lake general manager Craig Waibel's office are covered with whiteboards displaying RSL's lineups, roster, salary cap information, rising academy products, etc. it's the front office's "offline database."
That's where eight members of the RSL front office gathered to discuss Waibel and scout Dane Murphy's thoughts on Uruguayan center back Marcelo Silva after their trip to Madrid.
In short, "He's our guy," they said.
Silva, whose signing was announced last week, was RSL's first summer acquisition. He will be added to the roster upon the transfer of his International Transfer Certificate during the summer transfer window, which opens Monday and runs through Aug. 9.
MLS teams generally make fewer moves over the summer window than they do during the primary transfer window (Feb. 14 to May 8 this year). But for a team with a head coach who started in late March, it's a chance to begin building something new.
Mike Petke was hired as the RSL head coach after the firing of Jeff Cassar three games into the season. Other than the May acquisition of Jefferson Savarino, this year's summer transfer window marks the first time Real Salt Lake will be adding pieces with Petke in charge.
"It is going to take a while," Petke said after the Orlando match last week, referencing a postgame conversation with former RSL coach Jason Kreis. "It is going to take time to make this my team."
Petke has been active in the process of getting there.
"He comes down to our office all the time," Murphy said, "hears our ideas, we hear his ideas. To be honest, his voice is what we need to listen to because he's creating the product on the field and managing the players. So I love Mike's input, and he has been vocal about what he thinks will help the team in the way, and in the system, he wants to play."
The professional soccer season for the majority of the rest of the world runs from August to May. That means that if an MLS team is going to sign an international player as a free agent, it will more than likely have to do so in the MLS' secondary transfer window.
"It allows you to potentially add a player that you don't have to invest in, say, a transfer fee or a big loan fee," assistant general manager Elliot Fall said. "You can add a player in the middle of the season who may be able to kind of push you over the top."
Seattle's midseason acquisition of Nicolás Lodeiro last year gave it that kind of push. The former Boca Juniors midfielder helped redirect the Sounders' sputtering season into an MLS Cup victory.
While RSL hasn't staged a comeback like Seattle's, it has added game-changers during past summer windows.
In Kreis's first season as head coach like Petke, he was hired midseason RSL used the 2007 summer transfer window to make a flurry of roster changes.
Notably, RSL acquired Kyle Beckerman (Colorado), Chris Wingert (Colorado), Yura Movsisyan (Kansas City) and Robbie Findley (Los Angeles) through intra-league trades that year. It also signed Argentinian midfielder Javier Morales and forward Fabian Espindola.
More recently, the team acquired Juan Manuel Martinez in the summer of 2015.
"When we added Burrito Martinez, that transformed our team as well," Fall said. "He wasn't really able to change the group in 2015, but I think you saw in the beginning of 2016, when he was firing on all cylinders, we were a very dynamic team."
The planning process for this year's summer transfer window started a year and a half ago. That's the case for every transfer window, Vice President of Soccer Administration Rob Zarkos said.
"We actually have a six-, 12- and 18-month plan," he said.
They didn't have to adjust much after Petke was hired, according to RSL head scout Andy Williams, who played alongside Petke on the New York/New Jersey MetroStars.
"I know what kind of player he was," Williams said, "and I kind of know what players he wants for this team right now."
Murphy, who played an integral role in closing the Savarino and Silva deals, grew up watching Petke on the pitch at Southern Connecticut State University.
"To play for Mike, I think you need to be disciplined and able to be coached," Murphy said. "There are some coaches that will just put the guys on the field, they'll chalk up some stuff and say, 'You're good enough, figure it out.'
"Which works sometimes if you have a huge budget and you've got extremely good players, but we're a smaller market team. Mike's a disciplinarian. Mike expects work ethic all the time."
Williams estimates that he, Murphy and Waibel receive a combined 25 to 50 emails about players from agents and coaches every day. They whittle those down and keep tabs on the players they like.
"We are soccer geeks," Waibel said, "and watch a lot of different places from around the world, different leagues."
The scouts evaluate players not only by their play on the field, but also on their character.
The big war room meetings come into play once the scouts and Waibel have identified a player who fits the description of what the team wants to add during the transfer window.
"When we're getting ready to make an offer, we do something a little different than most MLS teams," Zarkos said. "The entire front office goes in a conference room, and we go through, and everybody gives their opinion."
For international players, RSL has to begin talks with agents early. Per FIFA regulations, a player can sign a contract with another team within six months of the end of his contract with his current club.
Agreeing to terms and filling out all the necessary paperwork can take months.
RSL has already gone through this process with Silva, and more additions could be coming in this season's month-long window.
"You'll hear rumors about guys being traded around the league every single day, and we frankly don't comment on rumors," Fall said when asked about reports of the trade talks. "Yura's a valuable veteran on our roster."
The striker clashed with Petke over playing time last month. Movsisyan, a designated player, leads the team with six goals and has started in five of RSL's past 10 league matches.
Strikers don't come cheap, but RSL could benefit from more options at that position. More depth in the midfield also wouldn't hurt going forward, especially with Beckerman turning 36 next year.
"Truthfully, we feel there are a couple spots where we may be able to make ourselves better," Fall said, "but we probably don't have the ability in the middle of the season to address everything.
"So right now it's, 'let's look for a piece that we think will improve us.' And if we find that piece, whatever spot on the field it may be, we'll pull the trigger, make it happen, and adjust our plans for January and going forward. But there isn't really one specific spot that we're focused on."
Another summer transfer window move isn't guaranteed. Trades and deals with target players could fall through or be pushed back to the primary transfer window.
Like Petke said, it is going to take a while.
RSL summer transactions
In • Forward Pedro Baez, July 22, loan from Cerro Porteno.
Out • Forward Devon Sandoval, July 13, loaned to Rayo OKC.
In • Midfielder/forward Luis Silva, July 16, trade from D.C. United; forward Juan Manuel Martinez, Aug. 13, free transfer.
Out • Forward Alvaro Saborio, July 16, traded to D.C. United.
In • Forward Sebastián Jaime, Aug. 8, transfer from Unión Española.
Out • Defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Aug. 11, traded to NYCFC.
In • Defender Brandon McDonald, July 17, trade from D.C. United.
In • Forward Kenny Mansally, July 21, free transfer; defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe, June 27, trade from Chicago; forward Justin Braun, July 11, trade from Montreal; midfielder David Viana, Sept. 14, free transfer.