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Japanese defender TerukazuTanaka is one of the players hoping to become a Laker/Photo: Julie Harper

Match Report: RSL Save Aces for Late in Diamond Cup

by Ethan Gomberg, Salt Lake City

RSL Preseason News and Desert Diamond Cup

–         Rookie Sebastian Velasquez (#26) has signed a contract with Real Salt Lake.

His tweet capsulated his feelings: “This Is a Blessing From God and The Only Way I Can Show My Appreciation Is Giving My All For This Jersey! <3 RSL”

–         Last week Real Salt Lake released forward Chris Agorsor and homegrown defender Donny Toia. Both were previously signed and their release now leaves two new open spots on the RSL roster.

From preseason camp, RSL has released the following players:

  • Chris Agorsor -forward
  • Donny Toia -defender
  • Austin da Luz -midfielder
  • Wes Knight -defender
  • Lewis Neal -midfielder
  • Sam Bengillion -defender

Additionally, Mike Banner, a midfielder-defender that had played several seasons with the Chicago Fire left RSL camp to trial in Finland. Considering RSL assistant coach CJ Brown played with and knew Banner well, it was thought he was a possible strong contender for a contract. Sources say the door is still open to Banner if returns.

–         Two new trialists were brought in this past week. They are Kasali Casal and Lance Laing. Both are defenders. Casal is of Nigerian-UK citizenship and was recently signed with a 1st division Hungarian club. Laing is Jamaican and recently played with the NASL 2nd Division Ft Lauderdale Strikers. Both players were scouted by head scout and former RSL great, Andy Williams.

Both were also in camp with the Columbus Crew until last week.

Leone Cruz has impressed in camp

–         Still with the club are trialists:

  • Jonny Steele – midfield
  • Emiliano Bonfigli –forward/midfield
  • Leone Cruz -defender
  • Terukazu Tanaka -defender
  • Diogo de Almeida –defender

–         Cruz and Bonfigli seem like safe bets to make the March 1st roster. RSL traded to get Cruz and Bonfigli has impressed in camp. Tanaka, Steele and de Almeida are fairly close to signing.

Tanaka has been reported to been already offered a contract, contingent to making the team (similar contingent contracts have been given to other international draftees and trialists in MLS).

–         The main reason they might be held back is their international status. Unless RSL has a trade in the works, they only have 6 international slots and 5 are currently claimed by existing players (Morales, Paulo, Espindola, Saborio and Martinez). Of course all RSL’s veteran international players are in some state of flux on obtaining a green card.

On RealSaltLake.com, Garth Lagerwey confirmed that Alvaro Saborio and Javier Morales are both in the process of obtaining their green cards but wouldn’t speculate when they’ll be approved for fear of ticking off the immigration officials, but whether it happens before Feb. 29 or after, Lagerwey said ‘freeing up those international roster slots will be very beneficial’.

Still it’s unknown at the current time how RSL could sign any more than 1 of these players. (Of the remaining trialists, Leone Cruz is the only one that does not currently take up an international spot).

This may benefit Wes Knight, an American fighting for a roster slot.

“Especially when two players are close, you’re going to take the domestic player. It’s just common sense. You’re going save that roster slot,”added Lagerwey.

–         RSL has had to deal with a rash of injuries, the most serious being midfielder Will Johnson flying to Germany for a delicate hernia surgery. He will be out three additional weeks. Also defender Nat Borchers continues to heal from a late 2011 season injury and has not played yet in preseason practice.

–         RSL heads into this week’s FC Tucson Diamond Desert Cup tournament against NY Red Bulls, LA Galaxy and New England Revolution with a only a partial starting lineup.

In doubt for the tournament: Morales, Borchers, Saborio & Johnson

Possible: Beltran & Wingert

Here is a Potential line-up (and substitutes)

Rimando (Reynish)

Beltran (de Almeida ) – Schuler – Olave (Cruz ) -Wingert (Tanaka/Casal )

                                        Beckerman (Alvarez)

Martinez(Steele)                                                    Grabavoy (Muñiz)

                                           Gil  (Velasquez)

                Espindola (Arnoux)           Paulo(Bonfigli)


Real Salt Lake’s first Desert Diamond match is against the NY Red Bulls on Feb. 22 at 8pm. All games webcasted on mlssoccer.com

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Also See:

Velásquez – the crazy fun kid; making friends and catching eyes


About Author

Steve is the founder and owner of Prost Amerika. He covered the expansion of MLS soccer in Cascadia at first hand. As Editor in Chief of soccerly.com, he was accredited at the 2014 World Cup Final. He is the former President of the North American Soccer Reporters Association/ Originally from Glasgow, he is a supporter of the Great Glasgow Alternative, Partick Thistle.

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