How Will Freddy Juarez Utilize The Clubs Recent Signings When MLS Returns?

Jun 3, 2021, 3:15 PM
Bobby Wood arrives at Salt Lake City International Airport on Wednesday, June 2nd. Photo courtesy: ...
Bobby Wood arrives at Salt Lake City International Airport on Wednesday, June 2nd. Photo courtesy: Real Salt Lake

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Real Salt Lake has added a number of players to its roster during the primary transfer window. Manager Freddy Juarez will now have his hands full when it comes to figuring out how to utilize all of them appropriately.

“A lot of the time questions are answered kind of just organically throughout the course of the season because when we get back you will start getting hit with a congested season,” Juarez said on the selection dilemma in the attacking third. “There will be opportunities for everyone to play. For as long as I have been in soccer there is opportunities for guys to get a game in and then it’s what they do with the opportunity.”

It is worth noting that all of the players mentioned below will need to prove that they are match fit before any decision is made on their future with the club.

Croatian center-back Toni Datković will add to the depth at center-back and will push for a starting spot. His addition means that Erik Holt will fall down the depth chart and is now the fourth choice center back for Juarez.

Datković is a real chance to take over the left-center back position, which has been played by Marcelo Silva this season when healthy. During the game that Silva has been hurt, Justen Glad slipped over to left-center back and Holt took control of the right-center back position.

Datković is left-footed, which means that he is more comfortable at left center back. Depending on how he performs following quarantine and medical testing, Datković will fight for starting minutes with Silva.

However, the safe bet is to assume that Silva starts against Vancouver on June 18 and Datković either comes off the bench or waits his turn patiently until an injury or tired legs occur.

Either way, center-back depth was needed and RSL has filled that void.

Bobby Wood Is In Town

Bobby Wood has landed in Salt Lake City and will undergo a mandatory quarantine before going through his medicals. Then, he will hit the training pitch and hope to impress Juarez immediately in training.

The biggest concern with Wood is not his ability to score goals, play with his back to the goal or create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates, the biggest concern for Wood is his fitness.

Wood departed his former club Hamburger SV and officially signed with RSL on April 2nd. Then he traveled to Denmark to be by his wife as she gave birth to their second child. Wood last played a game on April 4 when he started for Hamburger in their 3-3 draw against Hannover 96.

If Wood starts against Vancouver, it would have been over two and a half months since he stepped foot onto a soccer pitch for a competitive fixture.

Then, once Juarez decides if Wood is fit enough to perform for RSL, he must figure out how he slots him into the starting XI. Or will he come off the bench?

Assuming Juarez starts Wood, there is a possibility that Juarez tinkers with the lineup and plays Wood alongside Rubin, who has been in superb form. Rubin currently leads RSL in goals scored with four and has added two assists to his name through six games this year.

Jonathan ‘Jony’ Menéndez

Menéndez adds another element to the headache for Juarez. Menéndez has played on both the right and left-wing, but with Anderson Julio playing well on the right, it seems fair to assume that Jony’s most likely position for RSL will be on the right-wing, a position that captain Albert Rusnak has controlled this year.

Is it possible that Menéndez beats out Rusnak and sends the out-of-form RSL captain to the bench? The chances are slim. Even if Menéndez starts over Rusnak on the right, Juarez will likely back his captain in and play him in a more preferred central position.

Then the question must be asked; what then happens to Damir Kreilach? Who has played well this year as the number 10. Kreilach will likely be pushed into the heart of the midfield alongside Ruiz. Kreilach has played as a center midfielder for RSL in the past and has proven to be influential in that position.

The Prediction

The chances are that we see all three recently signed RSL players start on the bench for when RSL returns to the pitch on June 18 against Vancouver.

But expect to see Menéndez and Wood join the game in the second half for Julio and Rubin, respectively. Juarez this season has shown that he is more than likely to pull Julio and Rubin late in games. Maikel Chang and Douglas Martinez have been the two players who have seen the most minutes off the bench for both Julio and Rubin.

The recent signings mean that Chang and Martinez are now flirting with not making the gameday squad.

Then, as the season advances and tired legs and injuries creep into the RSL camp, Wood, Menéndez, and Datković will get their time to shine. That is when Juarez and the fanbase will get to experience the true talent of RSL’s recent signings. If they play well when their time comes do not be surprised if key players, such as Rusnak, are benched.



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How Will Freddy Juarez Utilize The Clubs Recent Signings When MLS Returns?