SALT LAKE CITY — After having locked up Fabián Espíndola and Álvaro Saborío with new deals over the last two offseasons, Real Salt Lake are more than set at the two starting forward positions.
But teams always need depth, and now RSL have turned their attention toward finding another producer – or two – at the reserve striker spot.
Over the last three seasons, the Claret-and-Cobalt have seen two forwards, Robbie Findley and Yura Movsisyan, depart for European pastures. With Saborío, whom they lured from the Old Continent, as the only prominent acquisition up top, it’s wise that the club look for an understudy, a position that can be filled by Paulo Jr., Cody Arnoux (above right) and Chris Agorsor.
Of the three, Paulo Jr. is the most proven, having scored two goals and adding four assists in 11 matches during an injury-filled 2011. And while Arnoux and Agorsor, who saw 69 and 10 minutes of action, dealt with injuries of their own, they now feel primed and ready to challenge for the backup spot.
“Neither player was with us in the preseason last year,” head coach Jason Kreis told reporters last week as the team began their preseason preparations. “They both joined us somewhere in the middle of the season, Cody a little earlier than Chris. I think that they’re both young forwards with a lot of potential, but nothing more than that right now. They need to take big steps forward, there’s no doubt about it. With our roster the way that it is, we’ll need contributions from everybody, including both of those players.”
Agorsor appeared primed to find playing time in the middle of the season in 2011 shortly after joining the squad following a release from Philadelphia, but a hand injury kept him off the field until late in the season.
“Chris Agorsor is a gifted, athletic player,” explained Kreis. “Similar athletic abilities and speed to a Robbie Findley, but technically, he has a lot of room for improvement. He needs to become a player that can handle the ball a little bit better than he is right now.”
For his part, Agorsor likes where he’s at.
“Everything that has happened so far has brought me right here, and I feel like I’m in a good spot,” insisted the 21-year-old speedster. “One of the best things about the squad right now is that you have a lot of young players who are talented and they are working. But then you look to your left or to your right and you see [Kyle] Beckerman or Nat Borchers and they are working just as hard.”
As far as Arnoux, Kreis believes the key for him is to stay healthy.
“Cody is a player that has just had so many injuries over the last few years that he’s never gotten into any sort of consistent form,” said Kries. “He was a college player that when we went and scouted him, we loved him. First and foremost, he has to take care of his body.”
Arnoux had microfracture surgery on his left knee a year ago, which was followed up by a minor arthroscopic procedure this season. He also sprained his MCL in his right knee less than two weeks after getting back to training from last year’s surgery.
So far this year, though, the forward feels as good as ever.
“I feel pretty good,” Arnoux told MLSsoccer.com while waiting for a preseason physical. “My knees feel good. No. 1 right now is staying injury free, and when the opportunities come, you’ve got to seize them when you’ve got them.”
Should each player remain healthy, their coach feels that they are poised for success in this league because of their attitudes.
“They are both very hungry players,” said Kreis. “They both want to learn, and so I think that the most important thing is mentality.”