The Major League Soccer transfer window is a unique and strange process. During the roughly four weeks from July 15 to Aug. 15, MLS teams have free reign to overhaul their roster by adding players from around the world.
For teams in contention, like Real Salt Lake this year, it's a chance to add a few missing pieces.
For teams not in contention, like Real Salt Lake last year, it's a chance to add some pieces for the future.
Already during this transfer window, RSL has added Robbie Russell, the New York Red Bulls have added three foreigners and Brian McBride has returned to MLS and more specifically his hometown Chicago Fire.
RSL has one more roster spot and expects to add another player soon. If history is any indicator, these midseason acquisitions are somewhat of a crapshoot.
In 2005, RSL acquired Adolfo Gregorio, Gustavo Cabrera and Robert Scarlett. The so-called reinforcements helped the team win just one of its last 13 games, and none of them were with the team a year later.
A year later, RSL wasn't very active in the transfer market, adding only Jafet Soto to the team along with a few minor trades within the league. It ended up missing the playoffs by two points.
Last season, RSL was active all year after Jason Kreis took over as head coach from John Ellinger. During the transfer window, RSL signed a trio of Argentines in Javier Morales, Fabian Espindola and Matias Mantilla. All three have seen extensive minutes since their arrival, and Morales in particular has been instrumental in leading Real Salt Lake to the top of the Western Conference heap.
Only time will tell if the addition of Russell and its future mystery man will help push RSL over the top this year.
"You need to keep looking to improve. Most teams in the league have done a good job improving every year, and we're one of them," said defender Chris Wingert. "But everybody else is really looking to constantly upgrade their team and we're in the same boat."
Wingert has been in the league long enough to see some good summer signings and some bad summer signings. He agrees the necessary, but it's a bit of a gamble.
"Any time you're going to add a guy that hasn't played in the league, you're taking a bit of a chance, obviously it's a good risk to take. It's just something you don't know quite as much how they're going to do when you come over," said Wingert.
Russell was the first of two transfer market acquisitions, joining RSL late last week after spending seven professional seasons in Norway and Denmark. He's a fast, physical player who should ultimately fit in well.
With its last vacant spot, one would think the coaching staff would be interested in adding a goal scorer to bolster the attack.
Following Monday's win over Toronto FC, Kreis made it clear the team isn't going to sign just anybody.
"Quite frankly ... he's gonna have to be what we consider much, much better than the ones we have," said Kreis.
That's good news for RSL's quintet of forwards Robbie Findley, Kenny Deuchar, Tino Nunez, Yura Movsisyan and Espindola.
That doesn't mean a deal won't happen. RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey said the club is in conversations with four or five different players right now, but offered no time frame for when a deal would be finalized.
Lagerwey said he doesn't want to rush into any signings, viewing this opportunity in the grander scheme of things.
"We're obviously going pretty well right now, and we don't really want to mess anything up, but at the same time I really look at this as yearlong process," he said.
"We're not a finished product. We're getting a lot out of our ability right now, but if we can add a piece here, and I'm talking very minor, you may be able to get just that little bit where in the second game of the playoffs, if you get there, now all of the sudden you have another player who can make a difference."
Negotiating loan deals and transfer fees, and looking at potential trades as well makes the entire process a bit complex.
RSL doesn't play another match until Aug. 16, so Lagerwey and his coaches have plenty of time in the coming weeks to hammer out a deal.
As for the Jared Borghetti rumors, Lagerwey said signing the Mexican international isn't likely."Relative to Mexico, those guys are designated players (signings)," he said. "It's not that we can't get a DP and won't consider one, but there's an argument that the wisest use of our cap is not to bring in a big star with the way this group believes in each other collectively. To bring in a big ego into that club, I'm not sure that's the right move at this time."
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