Yesterday I posted a bit about some of the organization changes during the off season, and they were impressive to say the least. Now we look at some of the roster additions.
If you want to see the future of RSL it became fairly clear this offseason, a good number of homegrown options with a few key pieces picked up from the international market. A huge move that many fans will be excited about was the full transfer of Brooks Lennon from Liverpool, the youngster will now get to fight for minutes with the RSL first team. Aaron Herrera and Corey Baird became the latest academy products to find their way to the first team roster. That list now includes, Danilo Acosta, Jordan Allen, Justen Glad, Jose Hernandez, Brooks Lennon and Sebastian Saucedo in addition to Herrera and Baird. That is a big chunk of the roster and one that shows that the future has run thru Casa Grande and going forward will run through Herriman.
The other off season pickups are an interesting mix of guys, Adam Henley is a defender born in Tennessee but raised in the UK and having played in both the Championship and Premier league for Blackburn will bring some great international experience to the team. Shawn Barry is an American born player from Florida, who spent his time playing at various levels in Europe and will bring a variety of experience with him to RSL. He will give the backline something it has lacked in the past a player who is adept with both feet, he is a natural right footed player with the ability to play various positions. Clearly with the injury to Tony Beltran that will leave him sidelined for the start of the 2018 season the team needed to pick up some depth on the back line and they did just that with the pickup of Henley and Barry.
Another area that RSL needed some help in was up top, with the continuing drama of Yura Movsisyan still being on the roster, the team looked for some help in the form of Alfredo Ortuno, the Spanish forward is coming off a 17 goal season for Cadiz CF last year in the Spanish second division. While we only saw glimpses of preseason action from him due to limited streams this year (boo) if you watch his highlight reels online from the last couple seasons you can see why RSL is excited to have him. He is good in the air with his head, has a knack for being in the right place at the right time, is strong on the ball and plays without fear. While I am not sure you would call him fast, he does seem to have a bit of pace and knows how to time his runs. Here is a clip of highlight you might want to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIbuH0wwLZo and one from the firm that represents him: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULTnRBLhMMg
There is also our selection in the annual “Super Draft” this year it was Ricky Lopez-Espin, with the 33rd pick in the draft. He is a player with size, something RSL has lacked up top, at 6’ 3” and alongside Corey Baird from Stanford, who signed as one of our homegrown players, can these two make the move from success at the college ranks to being impact players at the pro level? I am expecting if the Yura situation gets dealt with, that RSL will have some room to make a midseason move and I expect it will be needed, we have lots of wide options up top but in the middle it really looks like we are going with either Ortuno or Silva, not a lot of depth.
In the midfield is where as the saying goes “the rich get richer” by keeping Sunny along with signing Kyle to a new contract the midfield options went from good (Albert, Kyle, Luke, Sunny, Saucedo & Hernandez) to great with the addition of seasoned pro Damir Kreilach and youngster Pablo Ruiz. Damir comes to RSL from Union Berlin of the German second division where he played for 5 seasons, he is a “box to box” midfielder with an eye for goal, 23 in his last 3 seasons there. Some added international experience can only help our midfield out, then you toss in the youth of Pablo Ruiz from Argentina. The 19 year old had the attention of RSL for some time and this offseason with the changes to how payrolls are run and rosters built presented the chance for RSL to make a move and they went for it. He most recently played for San Luis in Chile, while the risks of young players can be high the reward for getting a star in the making is worth the risk.
Oh and then there is the keeper situation, RSL picks up Alex Horwarth and Connor Sparrow to back up Nick Rimando, if you don’t know Connor well they you didn’t pay attention to the Monarchs last year, where he simply was stellar and when Nick decides to hang up the gloves for good, Connor would be an awesome choice for RSL. To add some additional experience RSL picked up former MLS pool keeper Alex Horwath who has spent the last 4 seasons playing in Europe, this will add security and depth for the very long MLS season.
So what do these changes and non-changes make for a RSL team that finished the second half of the season with a 9-7-4 run, while it was an improvement over the first half it still left us on the outside of the playoffs. The improvement for me was impressive as the year went along but things have to get even better, the 9 win, 4 loss, 4 draw season at home simply wasn’t good enough for a team with the huge advantage of elevation and a rabid fan base. What will it take?