Since Real Salt Lake left the consciousness of the sporting world last October, its general manager and four coaches have scoured the globe in search of players to improve the second worst team in Major League Soccer in 2007.
The quintet has traveled to Germany, Argentina, Peru, Chile and Trinidad & Tobago, and it's already produced two signings, Ian Joy and Matias Cordoba. New GM Garth Lagerway can't comment on the acquisitions because they aren't legally finalized, but he doesn't foresee any reason why the deals won't be finished prior to the start of training camp on Jan. 26.
Joy is an American left fullback who's been playing in Germany for the past six years. Cordoba is an Argentine midfielder who most recently played with Tigre in the Argentine First Division.
Domestically, RSL's technical staff has been just as busy scouting collegiate soccer games in preparation for the Jan. 18 MLS SuperDraft in Baltimore.
Real Salt Lake, along with the 13 other MLS teams, will get one final look at 60 of those college players at the MLS Player Combine in Florida today through Tuesday. Lagerway says the combine is a tricky thing, that's why he made sure RSL's coaching staff did its homework and scouted most of these players prior to the combine.
"There's no way you're going to get the right mix of defenders, midfielders and forwards on a combine team, it's just a big glorified tryout," said Lagerway. "So you're going to look at things like character, raw speed, athleticism and can they adjust to a different environment.
"That might give you some insight into how they're going to plug into your team because the vast majority of college players will play a different position, or at least a different role professionally than they would in college."
RSL has three of the top 17 picks (No. 3, 14 and 17) in the four-round, 56-player SuperDraft. It also has the 37th pick which it acquired from Chivas USA in the Atiba Harris trade just a few weeks ago.
Lagerway's feelings about the upcoming draft are mixed. Three of the top 10 amateurs RSL had on its list have decided to play another year of college, including the University of Connecticut's O'Brian White. Their void definitely dilutes the top half of the draft in Lagerway's mind, but he still expects to get an impact player at No. 3.
Considering the team is short at center back with the retirement of Eddie Pope, don't be surprised if RSL goes in that direction with its first pick. According to ESPN's soccernet.com, some of the top defenders in this year's draft are Connecticut's Julius James, UC Santa Barbara's Andy Iro, Wake Forest's Pat Phelan, Cal Sate Northridge's Sean Franklin and Old Dominion's David Horst.
What direction RSL ultimately goes may depend on ongoing talks with an American defender playing in Norway.
"That's still quite a ways from being done, but we're in discussions and we'll see if we can get it done," said Lagerway.ENDLINES: The grand opening of RSL's new stadium will almost definitely be Thursday, Oct. 9, on ESPN2, according to Lagerway. That's enough time for RSL to play two or three home games of the 2008 regular season in the new stadium, meaning it will spend most of its fourth season at Rice-Eccles Stadium ... As of Thursday, Real and Chivas USA were still awaiting league approval of trade that would send Alecko Eskandarian to Chivas in exchange for a major allocation.
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