Real Salt Lake came into this offseason looking for depth at just about every position on the field. By most accounts, though, the forward spot was one of the few that was set.
It seems the emergence of Supplemental Draft pick Emiliano Bonfigli has changed that.
The squad has starting forwards Fabián Espíndola and Álvaro Saborío back for another go-around. RSL also have talented Brazilian Paulo Jr. back after an injury filled 2011, and high hopes for youngsters Chris Agorsor and Cody Arnoux.
However, Bonfigli has managed to find enough playing time to impress. Although he has not yet been signed, it’s clear that RSL are interested in what he brings to the table.
“He’s doing very well,” head coach Jason Kreis told MLSsoccer.com from training camp in Arizona. “He’s working very hard. He’s got some real pace and quickness, and he’s good around the goal. So he’s a very interesting player to us.”
In particular, the 22-year-old Argentine has opened eyes with his blistering pace. In fact, it’s that speed which likely hastened the departure of Agorsor (released by the squad), who was brought in as a speed option.
Bonfigli’s route to RSL also highlights the importance of connections. He is represented by Alejando Taraciuk, the same agent who represents Espíndola. In fact, Taraciuk arranged a meeting between the two in Buenos Aires before the MLS Combine, where Bonfigli was first able to showcase his skills to an American audience.
Although Bonfigli had to go through the draft process, perhaps it is more than just mere coincidence that he ended up joining Real Salt Lake.
“I knew about Fabián, and he said it was a good group to be around and work with,” Bonfigli explained through a translator. “The city is a good place to live in and very comfortable. When I heard about the opportunity to come here, I made the decision to come.”
Still, it wasn’t as though the Argentine was a sure thing.
Bonfigli didn’t have an impressive pedigree, rising through the ranks in Argentina’s third tier, where he scored 16 goals in 39 appearances for Club Amalgra. Those performances caught the attention of Manta FC in Ecuador’s top division, but that experience didn’t turn out quite as he had planned.
“It was a little bit difficult at first, and it was the first country that I had been in other than my own,” Bonfigli said. “Before I had gone, I was comfortable as a forward, and when I arrived there, they put me in the midfield and it didn’t go as expected.”
Fortunately for the Argentine, Kreis sees him as a forward. And for that he’s thankful, but also cognizant of the fact that he has not earned a contract just yet. Still, early indications are positive, even if general manager Garth Lagerwey wouldn't comment directly.
"We're hopeful to be able to add a player like Bonfigli at some point," Lagerwey said.