Join Now | 
HomeAboutContact UsPrivacy & SecurityAdvertise
Soccer America DailySoccer World DailySpecial EditionAround The NetSoccer Business InsiderCollege Soccer ReporterYouth Soccer ReporterSoccer on TVSoccer America ClassifiedsGame Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalkSoccer America ConfidentialYouth Soccer InsiderWorld Cup Watch
RSS FeedsArchivesManage SubscriptionsSubscribe
Order Current IssueSubscribeManage My SubscriptionRenew My SubscriptionGift Subscription
My AccountJoin Now
Tournament CalendarCamps & AcademiesSoccer GlossaryClassifieds
Alvarez deal symbolizes RSL's acumen
by Ridge Mahoney, April 22nd, 2011 4:26PM

TAGS:  concacaf champions league, mls, real salt lake


Like many players, Arturo Alvarez has been around, and like a select few who currently wear the colors of Real Salt Lake, may have found the right fit at the foot of the Wasatch Range.

Formerly of FC Dallas and San Jose, used as both a forward and wide midfielder, and once hopeful of a spot on the U.S. national team before switching his allegiance to El Salvador, Alvarez epitomizes a type of skillful, streaky attacker who isn’t quite worthy of consistent starts but is of great value in spot duty and off the bench.

In the RSL pecking order among forwards, he’s a definite fourth behind Alvaro Saborio, Fabian Espindola and young Brazilian Paulo Araujo Jr., and as such didn’t figure to see much time – barring injuries or red cards – in the Concacaf Champions’ League finals against Monterrey. The play of Araujo Jr. while on loan last year from Miami FC, particularly in the CCL, prompted RSL to bring him back, and he’s been first choice either as sub or when Saborio or Espindola can’t start.

Before that deal came to fruition, though, in late November RSL had sent a second-round draft pick to Portland a few hours after the Timbers claimed Alvarez from San Jose in the Expansion Draft. What seemed to be a minor move paid off hugely against Monterrey Wednesday; with Araujo Jr. injured and unable to play because of a strained hamstring, Alvarez got a spot on the bench, and in the 82nd minute replaced a laboring Saborio.

Upon signing Alvarez, 25, the RSL staff lauded his ability to disrupt defenses with speed and aggression, yet he also fits the team philosophy of fielding players with good feet. With less than two minutes left in regulation and RSL trailing, 2-1, Alvarez collected a loose ball near the sideline, and with a delicate flick of his foot gave Javier Morales a chance to score the equalizer, which he did by shimmying past a defender and shooting low inside the far post.

“Arturo [Alvarez] made a good play on the outside to give me the ball,” said Morales, who like Saborio had been quelled by Monterrey for much of the game. “I touched it and that’s when the defender came to me. I tried to cut and cross the ball and was happy because it ended up as a goal.”

In building their squad, in addition to game-changers acquired internationally such as Saborio, Espindola, Morales and defender Jamison Olave, general manager Garth Lagerwey and head coach Jason Kreis have also culled a remarkable array of first-teamers with MLS experience elsewhere.

Will Johnson (Chicago), Nick Rimando (D.C. United), Chris Wingert and Kyle Beckerman (both Colorado), Ned Grabavoy (Los Angeles), and Andy Williams (five teams, most recently Chicago) all came to Salt Lake City from domestic rivals. Ex-Rapid Nat Borchers stopped over in Scandinavia before coming back to MLS. Beckerman, Rimando and Williams were also teammates with the defunct Miami Fusion.

The addition of Alvarez mirrors a commitment made a year and a half ago, when RSL’s triumph against the Galaxy in MLS Cup 2009 qualified it for the 2010-11 CCL. Kreis and Lagerwey knew back then the importance of depth, and at RSL, backups do not just fill spots on the roster. With a squad of 28, two below the league maximum of 30, RSL spread around an additional $100,000 in allocation money supplied by MLS to CCL participants and signed most of its regulars to long-term deals rather than add two more players.

RSL could never have reached this stage without talent, skill, and determination at least comparable to the top Concacaf teams in other countries. It received scheduling breaks from MLS during the semifinals, and MLS moved its game with Philadelphia this weekend to September to increase its readiness for the second leg on Wednesday at Rio Tinto Stadium, where it is unbeaten in 37 games.

As a team, RSL’s advancement to the brink of a regional club title is a study in smart tactics and intelligent deployment of talented personnel. As an organization, its management of limited resources to succeed against richer clubs may be an even greater accomplishment, and a challenge to its league foes.

  1. David Sirias
    commented on: April 22, 2011 at 6:41 p.m.
    The entire RSL management should be applauded regardless of the result next week. They have shown that a very good team can be assembled within MLS financial parameters. But it requires smarts and vision, and one other thing: excellent coaching. Not just average. Kreis has his teams ready to go like horses at Pimlico. And Kreis understands that the teams that can keep possession and attack relentlessly usually win because they wear down the other team. Kreis looks for people that can play football, not anti-football; Possession as defense ala the Spanish. That is why teams like the Revolution will never win an MLS trophy with the staff they have in place. We have RSL and NYRB to thank for showing MLS that you need not play with enforcers/goons/huffers in central defense and midfield to win games in north america---rather, just hard working intelligent guys who can work in small spaces and find/get open for their teammates.
  1. David Huff
    commented on: April 26, 2011 at 4:01 p.m.
    The RSL organization seems to be doing everything right, not just their winning play but stylistically as well as their approach to using and developing players. Bravo!

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now



Recent Soccer America Confidential
Year of parity marks 20th MLS season    
There are certainly some poor teams in MLS this season for which parity seems a long ...
MLS: Best of September    
More brilliance from the Atomic Ant, another top forwar.d robbed by the league's all-time shutout king, ...
Sporting KC isn't about to rest on its impressive laurels    
There is a lot to like about Sporting Kansas City. Its ownership group has built one ...
Does the Open Cup final need a home, too?    
Since closing of the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame building in Oneonta, N.Y,. five years ago, ...
MLS home teams are winning at a near-record pace    
Has the rapid pace of MLS expansion and corresponding increase in soccer-specific stadiums translated into better ...
MLS stars align at just the right time    
September was a crazy month in MLS. Not once but in two consecutive weeks the top ...
Western Conference race merits attention from all MLS fans, regardless of loyalties    
By expanding its playoff field from five teams per conference to six, MLS has broadened interest ...
The case for and against a summer off    
We should know soon enough whether the Copa Centenario goes ahead as planned -- the final ...
My 23 for Mexico    
Just about every U.S. fan is anxious to see who will be picked to face Mexico ...
Fire plagued with questions in aftermath of latest shakeup    
Who in their right minds would be encouraged by yet another shakeup at the Chicago Fire?
>> Soccer America Confidential Archives