It was only a year ago that the tandem of Luis Tejada and Jeff Cunningham was being pegged by coach John Ellinger as one of the most dangerous in Major League Soccer. Neither player is still with Real Salt Lake, and in fact not one of the forwards on the 2007 opening-day roster is still with the team.
Tejada was released within days of Jason Kreis taking over as coach, whereas Cunningham was traded to Toronto a few months later.
Those midseason changes, combined with a coveted offseason pick-up, have changed the landscape of RSL's strike force heading into the 2008 season.
Robbie Findley, Yura Movsisyan and Fabian Espindola were all midseason acquisitions last year, and at various times showed flashes of emerging as a formidable scoring threats. All three, however, were roughly the same build, and one of the coaching staff's primary objectives heading into the offseason was finding a target forward to compliment the trio.
It took much longer than anticipated, but RSL finally got their man two weeks ago.
While on a scouting trip in Scotland, Real general manager Garth Lagerwey couldn't believe his eyes when the player he went to watch scored two goals against the Glasgow Rangers. He obviously loved what he saw in Kenny Deuchar, and a deal was done within 48 hours. Now Deuchar's in Argentina training with the team.
"He was a player we talked to a few weeks ago and knew there was a possibility of something," said Kreis. "We saw some video and liked what we saw enough that Garth wanted to go over there and see him play. When you go to see a player play against the Rangers and he scores twice, it tends to be a bit of an element. I think we are very fortunate to have Kenny Deuchar."
Deuchar was a licensed and practicing physician in Scotland prior to signing with Real.
Assuming the 31-year-old stays healthy, one would anticipate a dozen or so goals from Deuchar this year. Sprinkle in five or six goals from RSL's other trio of young forwards and suddenly the team would appear to have a formidable attack again.
Of the three, Findley might be the most promising based on 2007. Sure, he had weeklong stretches when he seemed nonexistent, but he proved himself to be a hard worker and a lethal finisher around the penalty area, finishing with six goals in 16 games with RSL.
"He needs to do what any young player needs to do, be consistent," said Kreis. "He needs to give us his best game every game."
He'll likely miss a month or so this summer while participating with the U.S. Under-23 National Team at the Olympics in China, which makes RSL's depth all the more important.
The X-factor among the forwards is Singapore sensation Indra Sahdan Daud. He hasn't earned a contract yet, but he's still with the team at training camp in Argentina, a good sign that the coaching staff really likes his potential.
Rookie forward Tino Nunez, taken in the supplemental draft, is another player who's impressed so far.
"He's a guy who as a forward is willing to play with his back to the goal, get the ball off support players, hold the ball and get it back to them," said Kreis. "That's not easy to find."
E-mail: [email protected]