RSL tries to balance short-, long-term vision in transfer moves

Real Salt Lake head coach Pablo Mastroeni addresses the team following training on Friday at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Real Salt Lake head coach Pablo Mastroeni addresses the team following training on Friday at Rio Tinto Stadium. (Laura Dearden, Real Salt Lake)



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

SANDY — The Real Salt Lake roster is pretty much set for the rest of the season following the close of the summer transfer window Thursday. So what does the makeup of the team look like moving forward?

"I think we were able to acquire three pieces that we think really complement our group, can come in, can fight for minutes, can contribute, and can also be a long-term piece of what we're what we're building and what we're doing," general manager Elliot Fall said of the team's transfer moves. "They'll help us this year, but they'll help us long term as well."

It is this balance between immediate contributions and long-term building that presents the current challenge for RSL's front office and the subject of debate for fans and pundits alike.

RSL was a win away from taking the top spot in MLS on June 25 but has since dropped to ninth in the league and fifth in the Western Conference. A loss Saturday against LAFC and wins by Nashville, Seattle and Portland below it could have RSL on the outside of the playoff picture looking in come Sunday.

Fall and RSL know they have a chance to make a push for the playoffs given the team's early-season success, so they made a couple of moves to bolster the current roster needs.

The first move was forward Danny "Moose" Musovski from LAFC: a 26-year-old Las Vegas product with 11 goals in two years with the league-leading LA squad. Head coach Pablo Mastroeni named the striker position as one of the main areas of need for RSL, especially given the injury to Bobby Wood and lack of production from Sergio Cordova.

"I think he flies under the radar a bit because he played at LAFC, and they obviously have a lot of big names," Fall said of Musovski. "But he was a guy that started regularly for them ahead of some of those big names and was very productive for them. So we're excited with more minutes, with more opportunity, he's going to score more goals."

RSL is middle-of-the-pack in goalscoring ability in MLS, tied for 13th in the league in total goals scored with 30. Jefferson Savarino leads the team in goals scored with five in 13 fewer games than Cordova, who has just four goals on the season and one in his last nine games.

Musovski arrives in Utah on Thursday but will be out for a little while with a hamstring strain he suffered last month.

The defense has fared much better than the offense for RSL so far this season — anchored by the back line of Andrew Brody, Justen Glad, Marcelo Silva and Aaron Herrera — but the departures of Chris Kablan and defensive midfielder Everton Luiz left the depth on defense a little shallow.

Enter Bryan Oviedo, a 32-year-old left back/left midfielder with 12 years of experience in European leagues and 71 appearances with the Costa Rican national team.

"Bryan Oviedo is another incredibly accomplished professional," Fall said. "(He has) great international experience, great experience in European leagues (and) can really complement the group of outside backs we have right now — which are fantastic already — and bring another level to the group, some leadership (and) some experience."

The final transfer of the window — to complete Mastroeni's request to sign three players in positions of need — was 22-year-old Paraguayan midfielder Braian Ojeda from the newly-promoted Premier League side Nottingham Forest. Ojeda, unlike Musovski and Oviedo, is an investment in the club's long-term future.

"Braian Ojeda is a really, really talented young kid who is starting World Cup qualifiers for his South American country and is coming in on loan, (and) we have an option to buy and make the move permanent," Fall said. "He's a U-22, which obviously has massive roster and budget implications, positively, for the long term. So that's a move that we feel we could reap the rewards from for years."

Ojeda is listed as a central midfielder, and Fall said that he can play both sides of the ball, giving RSL the opportunity to mold him into the player it needs in the future should it elect to buy his rights permanently from Nottingham.

The arrivals of Ojeda and Oviedo depend on the pending approval of their work visas, but Fall anticipates they will "realistically" be here in a couple of weeks.

For now, RSL will have to make do with the guys it has in the locker room without the new additions, with its work cut out for it against LAFC stars Gareth Bale, Carlos Vela and Giorgio Chiellini on Saturday.

"It'll be a great barometer as to where we're at," Mastroeni said. "As much as we've worked on quite a bit of tactics to try to unlock some opportunities offensively and defensively...I think the game is won and lost and in the nuances of the game: second balls, the hustle plays; because they're a team that has star power, but they're not scared to roll up their sleeves and go to work."

Kickoff between RSL and LAFC is set for 8:30 p.m. MDT at Rio Tinto Stadium.

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Caleb Turner covers Real Salt Lake as the team's beat writer for KSL.com, in addition to his role where he oversees the sports team's social media accounts.

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