SANDY — Last fall, the L.A. Galaxy shelled out millions of dollars to acquire 31-year-old Robbie Keane from Tottenham in England. It was a costly pick-up, but ultimately pushed the Galaxy over the MLS hump as they claimed their first MLS Cup since 2005.
Keane was magnificent against Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference final, and owner Dave Checketts certainly took notice.
"When you watch what Robbie Keane did to us in the Western finals, you have to say once and a while the right designated player can work out," said Checketts.
Keane's impact and presence, however, aren't about to change the core and financial philosophy of Real Salt Lake.
"The notion of us going out and getting Henry, or Marquez, or our payroll going to $15 million, is just not in the cards. Between building the stadium, buying the franchise, the operating losses, the owners have already committed a significant amount of capital," said Checketts last week after watching RSL's first training session of the year.
Checketts said he's willing to spend money, but it will be disciplined and wise spending. The club used one of its designated player spots last offseason to purchase the contract of Alvaro Saborio. When star midfielder Javier Morales' contract runs out and the end of this season, Checketts said RSL fully intends on keeping Morales, and admits it might take designated player money to do so.
With Real Salt Lake's success the past three years, Checketts doesn't see a need to play copycat and follow the lead of the big market team.
"In L.A. and New York's case, they're in markets where they have enormous competition for the sports dollar, and they're trying to get regular articles in the papers. They almost have to do something like (signing big names)," said Checketts.
"I don't feel that same pressure because I think our fans want a team that just plays well together, and is technically very good to watch, fun to watch, an attacking style of soccer. We're just going to have to be smarter."
With an MLS Cup in 2009, followed by the second-best record in MLS in 2010 and the third-best record in 2011, Checketts said, "so far the experiment works. We've got a good club."
Checketts reiterated that had Nat Borchers and Jamison Olave both been healthy in the playoffs last year, RSL might've been the team hoisting the MLS Cup instead of the Galaxy.