SANDY — Like most rookies, Jean Alexandre was eager to do whatever his coaches wanted.
Sure he wanted to play forward in MLS after a successful college career at Lynn University, but Real Salt Lake didn't draft him to be a forward. RSL envisioned that with Alexandre's tremendous athleticism he'd be the perfect fit at holding midfielder.
The consummate team player, Alexandre embraced his role as Kyle Beckerman's primary backup and over the past three years playing in a combined 24 matches in MLS play.
Deep down though, Alexandre always fancied himself as a forward, and Saturday he'll likely get his chance.
With RSL facing a serious striker shortage against visiting Seattle at 7 p.m., the team will likely turn to Alexandre to start up top alongside a finally healthy Fabian Espindola.
Alexandre played the final 15 minutes at forward against Houston two weeks ago, but Saturday he'll likely get his first start.
"I just want to thank God for this opportunity. I like it, I played it in college, but it's different at this level. You have to be a step faster than the college level," said Alexandre. "I'm a team player. If the team needs me to play forward then I'm going to play my best up top."
For a team that's scored one goal in its past five matches, Alexandre is by no means an ideal solution. However, these are desperate times for Real Salt Lake with forwards Alvaro Saborio and Arturo Alvarez away with their national teams preparing for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Will Johnson will leave for the Gold Cup as well after Saturday's match. RSL always knew it would lose the trio of players to national team duty in June, but it didn't count on injuries to Javier Morales and Paulo Jr. as well.
Espindola's return couldn't come at a better time. The tenacious striker missed the last two matches with a hamstring strain, but he's raring to go after a full week of training.
"It's part of where we are right now. We've just got to continue to keep that defensive grit and keep up that. If we can do that for a little longer I think the offense is going to turn around," said RSL captain Kyle Beckerman.
Alexandre, who scored 34 goals in 69 games in college, could be a deceptive addition to the attack.
"He's an athletic presence, a kid that's going to work hard up there. He needs to hold the ball, which he's more than capable of doing. With his back to goal he's one of the best guys on the team in doing that," said RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy. "He's a bit trickier than people give him credit for, a guy who's pretty good on the ball and has a bit of flair to him, but he really can't express that in the midfield."
A visit from Seattle could be exactly what RSL needs to get back on track as the Sounders are 1-2-2 over their past five matches, including a 1-0 home loss to Dallas on Wednesday.
Seattle and Real Salt Lake are among four teams tied for third in the Western Conference with 17 points, but RSL has played five fewer matches than Seattle.
Even though RSL is struggling on the attack, defensively it has been absolutely sensational surrendering just two goals in eight matches this year.
"I don't think it's any secret that teams that keep a zero in the back are going to have a chance to win games. There's a lot of games in MLS where the first goal is the difference in the game," said Grabavoy.
After back-to-back scoreless draws, RSL would be thrilled with scoring the first goal Saturday.
RSL signs Movsisyan's cousin
SANDY — To help shore up its depleted front line because of injuries and international call-ups, Real Salt Lake signed 23-year-old Artur Aghasyan to a contract on Friday. To make room for Aghasyan the club waived Conor Chin just two months after signing him.
Aghasyan, 23, is the cousin of former RSL striker Yura Movsisyan, and he's been training with the team for the past few weeks.
Aghasyan grew up in Armenia, but moved to the United States in 2007 with his family. He's had preseason trials with RSL and Chivas USA over the past three years. He was a member of the PDL squad Ventura County Fusion in 2008 and 2009, scoring 16 goals over two years.RSL signs Movsisyan's cousin
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company