Real Salt Lake General Manager Garth Lagerwey joined ESPN700's “The Bill and Hans Show” on Monday afternoon to discuss RSL’s busy day and look ahead to the rest of the offseason.
The majority of the conversation – which you can listen to in full here – is transcribed below:
On trading Fabian Espindola and Jamison Olave to New York for allocation money
“One of the issues that we’ve had as we’ve kept our core together since 2008 is that the cap goes up about 5 percent a year and our player contracts go up more than that. That forces us into decisions of prioritizing who stays and who goes. For the most part, we’ve been able to hold off the day of reckoning on that for a number of years through the way we’ve structured some contracts through some bonuses and some acquisition fees and things like that. But once we hit the end of this year and we weren’t able to qualify for Champions League and we weren’t able to advance in the playoffs it just became clear it was time to try to restructure our salary cap and create some more resources to try to go after some attacking firepower.
Overall the two cases are a little bit different. Fabian has obviously scored 19 goals over the last two years and I think he had something along the order of 10 assists. He was on the All-Star team this year and I think he’ll be very, very difficult to replace and we’ll be looking to go abroad to sign a player to try to do that.
Jamison will also be difficult to replace but we do feel like we have some good young center backs in the fold with Chris Schuler, Kwame Watson-Siriboe and, we haven’t talked about this one yet, but we’ve also acquired a young center back with some pace from Toronto named Aaron Maund. He was Toronto’s first round draft pick last year and we rated him very highly.”
On the thinking behind Monday’s moves
“The idea, the philosophy behind all the moves is to fundamentally restructure our salary cap to setup what will hopefully be another long, successful run and to identify positions where we have good young players who are ready to step up and contribute.
We also want to address what we feel is a key issue going forward which is to acquire more goal scorers. We want to get players on our team in all positions who can score goals in big games. As you know, the team is the star and that remains the case. We’re not talking about going out and getting star, big-name players but we’ve had a number of times now in big games where we weren’t able to get a goal when we absolutely had to have it. The obvious cases there are Herediano at home when a 1-0 win would’ve put us through we don’t score and Seattle in the playoffs with two games without scoring. But we feel like this issue goes back further than that. If you go back to 2011 we had Monterrey at home to win the Champions League, just needing a tie and we lose and don’t score. In the 2010 playoffs we had Dallas at home and any kind of win puts us through and we tie 1-1. In 2009 obviously we won the champ. But in 2008 in the Conference Final at home against New York we lose 1-0. So every example save for one, in the biggest games that we’ve played at home in front of sold-out crowds we have not been able to score a goal and that’s something that we’re seeking to address this offseason.”
On finding forwards this offseason
“We’re looking for more goals out of the midfield as well, but definitely we have to go out now and sign forwards. I don’t rule out trading for a forward, but I suspect that the cost of trading for a forward when you weigh salary plus allocation money we’d have to give up, I suspect you’re going to find a better value if you go out abroad and try and find a forward that way. I think the goal is to try to sign or acquire at least two forwards this offseason.”
On the team’s salary cap situation after Monday’s moves
“By acquiring a lot of allocation money today we’ve affected a seven figure swing from a cap perspective. To be clear we came into this offseason where we knew we had to cut 25 percent of payroll and we have done that. We’re now under the cap and with the all money we’ve acquired through various deals we now have enough we think to go out and acquire a couple of forwards and potentially possibly a third player.”
As our fans see these players moving out through these various trades, it’s important to remember who this core is. Going up the spine of our team you’re still looking at [Nick] Rimando, [Nat] Borchers, [Kyle] Beckerman and [Alvaro] Saborio. And we’re in negotiations with Javier Morales, as well.
What we’re doing right now is tweaking our core. We’re trying to get a little bit younger, but, to be honest with you; it’s all about the right mix of experience and youth. We want to keep the mentors in place to take along and educate our younger players so we can hopefully have a good transition without a big dip in form.”
On what fans should be thinking heading into 2013
"I think they can expect a team that consistently competes for championships. That’s what I pledged to ownership when they hired me and I think we’ve been able to achieve that so far.
Now as we begin to turn the team over, when we trade away Espindola and Olave and have one other potential deal in the works, we’re trading away guys who have been All-Stars, who have been Best XI in the league. It’s disrespectful to those players to claim you’re going to replace them immediately. I think it takes time but again, what I think [Head Coach] Jason [Kreis] and I have done it right is that we’ve built the team in such a way that we have young players that are in positions to succeed if we keep enough good players around them…. We feel that we have a group of four young center backs that are ready to step up and contribute. And I think in midfield we have a number of really exciting young players when you look at Sebastian Velasquez and David Viana and Luis Gil and Yordany Alvarez… and Enzo Martinez….
The goal going forward is also to contend for championships and hopefully we’re able to kind of reset things right now so that we can afford contracts for the long-term and potentially take this tweaking of the core and ride it for multiple years. I think that’s the one thing we really got right going back to 2008 and 2009. We identified a group of players and we stuck with them and we were able to keep them together for a number of years. And through that consistency, through that continuity we were able to keep our style of play and have longer term success. That is what we’re trying to accomplish here. There might be some hiccups, there might be some slipups in the beginning just as there were in 2008 and 2009… but our expectation is to make the playoffs and that’s a goal that we’ll have every year. I’m hopeful that if we handle this transition properly we’ll achieve that.”
On contract negotiations with MF Javier Morales
“With Javier I expect that a resolution will come or not come within the next week or so. I think the other place he might go is Mexico. I think that those teams are now beginning to become active, they just had their final this weekend and those teams are beginning to become active in pursuing players.
It’s always been a question of does Javi want to come back, or does he want to play in Mexico, because if he wants to go to Mexico they’re going to be able to pay him more money than we will. Because of that it’s largely a personal decision from Javier. Of course we want him back, we’re very eager to re-sign him. I actually think that Javi’s family is happy here in Salt Lake and he wants to come back. Of course I obviously can’t speak for Javi and I’m sure his opinion will depend on what his options are, but usually when a player has positive thoughts about coming back and the club wants him back that’s a good environment to complete the deal.”
On Head Coach Jason Kreis’ recent scouting trip to South America
“We identified a number of players and the good news is that Jason agreed with our scouting staff that a lot of these players are pretty good players. Now the hard part comes with figuring out how to afford them.
It’s a question of being patient and finding the right deal, for the right player, for the right price. We can all identify that Messi’s a good player. We can’t all afford that, though. So it’s really finding the right match at the right value and that’s what we’re trying to do right now.”
On whether RSL will stick with its possession oriented system in 2013
“I think as long as Jason’s the coach of RSL we’re likely to stick with the same system…. Again, we’re not talking about changing out every player on our team. We have made some very significant moves with some very significant players who have been with us for a long time. That is a big deal and it will be difficult to replace those guys, but we still have a number of core players in place and I believe we’ll have enough continuity and veteran leadership within the group to remain successful and to pass our ideals on.
The good news is that a lot of the young guys that we have now have a year or more under their belts. David Viana has had a couple of months, Sebastian Velasquez has had a whole year, Yordany Alvarez has had two years, Enzo Martinez has had a year, [Kenny] Mansally’s had the better part of a year, [Chris] Schuler’s had three years and Kwame [Watson-Siriboe] has had the better part of a year. So when you look at our young guys that are looking to replace some of these guys that we’re moving out, I think now they are better prepared to succeed in year two or three and it would almost do them a disservice to switch the system at this point. I think keeping the same system is going to hopefully reward the hard work that those kids have put in.”