Jay Bell stops by TSG, does interview
The 2011-2012 offseason has proven to be one of the most eventful in MLS’ 17-year history.
MLS clubs flexed more muscle than ever in the CONCACAF and CONMEBOL transfer markets, especially in bringing in another 300 Colombians. Seattle and New York continued to raid Scandinavia and several clubs made seemingly sensible DP signings (Boyd, Portland; Robson, Vancouver; Salihi, DC), though Houston continues to be spurned by DP candidates.
Top teams and bottom teams alike made overhauls of their rosters. The Philadelphia Union will be almost unrecognizable to the team from last season. Chivas USA continues the transformation under Robin Fraser. The Seattle Sounders and FC Dallas had some roster turnover despite their high finishes in 2011. The Los Angeles Galaxy were busy, but ended up being busy re-assembling the super-team that everyone thought was done after the MLS Cup victory + Edson Buddle and Marcelo Sarvas.
Meanwhile, Real Salt Lake has made some of the fewest acquisitions in the league, along with the Houston Dynamo, despite losing numerous players through various avenues. That list includes: Jean Alexandre (traded to SJ), Arturo Alvarez (free transfer), Nelson Gonzalez (loan ended), Robbie Russell (traded to DC), Collen Warner (expansion draft) and Andy Williams (retired). The team also released, waived or did not re-sign another five players.
Instead, RSL has decided to spend funds keeping some of its core players for the next several years and “replenishing” its roster with draft picks and players signed after trials.
TSG was able to speak with GM Garth Lagerway about RSL’s team-building philosophy as the team prepares for MLS, US Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League competition in 2012.
Jay Bell, The Shin Guardian: Do you have a specific philosophy when it comes to players that you would like to bring in?
Garth Lagerway: Yeah, I guess we do in the sense that we always look at personality and how they behave off the field as well as how they play on it. We’re looking for good people as well as good soccer players.
TSG: I think I have heard before, at least a few times, that Jason [Kreis] has met with a player before you have signed him. Is that a regular occurrence or does that just happen on certain occasions?
GL: It is an always thing. Jason or I or both of us will meet with every player before we sign them. It is the point of the process that we insist on in terms of getting to know them as people.
TSG: This was a big offseason for MLS. The league brought in a ton of players from Central America and South America. I think RSL was already leading the way with a lot of players like Saborio and Espindola. What do you think it says about MLS breaking more into those transfer markets and the way RSL was already doing that.
GL: I think back to my days with DC United as the color commentator and the South American players that they had there like Marco Etcheverry and Jaime Moreno. Going back, I played with Carlos Valderrama in Miami. I think in the early days of the league Jorge Campos was a big player. I think that there is a pretty good tradition of signing Latin American players, so I don’t think we have re-invented the wheel or anything like that.
We have had success. We want to play a possession-style game and we have been very cognitive of going out and finding players that can play in our system. With that in mind, South America has proven to be a very fruitful market for us.