Salt City FC
Salt City FC Extra Points
PODCAST: Fate has a way of making things work out. Just ask Jasper Löffelsend

PODCAST: Fate has a way of making things work out. Just ask Jasper Löffelsend

Real Salt Lake opened the 2023 preseason Monday with a lot of returning players, a bevy of homegrown signings and SuperDraft picks, and eyes on "two difference makers" that may be coming later.

HERRIMAN — Sometimes a team has to scout high and low for an impact player that can contribute immediately.

Other times, said player falls right into your lap — even accidentally.

Such was the case with RSL defender/midfielder Jasper Löffelsend. Salt Lake picked up the former Pitt fullback from Cologne, Germany with the No. 81 overall selection in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft, and manager Pablo Mastroeni admitted Monday that he was likely headed for a Real Monarchs contract as a developmental defender following training camp.

Then fate intervened.

“We went back and obviously watched all of our preseason sessions from last year to see how we want to do things a little bit differently,” Mastroeni explained to a small handful of reporters after the club’s first training session Monday. “He was playing right back at the time — and then Everton (Luiz) jumped into camp. It was probably two weeks before our first game, where Jasper was actually going to sign with the Monarchs.

“But there were some paperwork problems with Everton, and he wasn't going to be available for around three weeks. So we tried in the middle when we went to Portland, and he was he was lights out.That's when he was offered a first-team deal, and that's when he started playing in the middle.”

Courtesy photo: Real Salt Lake

Obviously, RSL had to be in the position to add a player of Löffelsend’s quality, by drafting the player, inviting him to training camp, and being willing to sign him in some role. But the club also had to be flexible enough to move around the right back-turned-central midfielder who finished his rookie campaign starting 19 of 30 matches and logging 1,631 minutes with a goal and five assists.

“A lot of these things, we think that we can control and that we are geniuses,” Mastroeni said. “But the truth of the matter is that the universe works in ways that we cannot understand or comprehend. And the only reason that Jasper was even given the opportunity was because Everton had paperwork problems.

“To take that further, the one thing that we talk about with players who aren’t getting a lot of playing time is to always be prepared for that opportunity. Jasper, being the professional he was, stepped in and didn't miss a beat all year. Fortune meets preparedness, and that equals good luck.”

Such a story illustrates RSL’s run with new signings and player development. The club’s most valuable asset — and one of the best fullbacks in Major League Soccer — in Aaron Herrera was recently traded to CF Montreal. Striker Sergio Cordova was recently recalled from his loan, headed back to Augsburg in Germany.

It may seem like the top players in RSL’s camp have left the club, and Salt Lake hasn’t replaced them. And while there may be some truth to that, the club has also added through its academy, through homegrown signings, and through a rare set of four MLS SuperDraft picks that included trading up to bring back former RSL Academy product Ilijah Paul — who was not eligible to sign with Real Salt Lake as a homegrown player because he did not play for 12 consecutive months for the academy before his 18th birthday.

But fate often intervenes in situations, whether in the case of Löffelsend, who is once again listed as a defender on RSL’s roster (though he could return to central midfield, coaches and staff members add) or in other signings.

RSL has been linked with Colombian rising star Andres Gomez, the 20-year-old winger who made 59 first-team appearances with Millionarios FC while notching 13 goals and six assists in 4,000 minutes.

Tom Bogert of the league’s official website has been reporting that Gomez and RSL are finalizing a deal to bring the starlet to Utah on a club-record deal under Major League Soccer’s new U-22 initiative. The transfer fee would reportedly be close to $4 million, eclipsing the previous record set when Venezuelan international Jefferson Savarino returned to RSL last May from Atletico Mineiro in Brazil.

But whether Gomez arrives at RSL, or the club unlocks another gem in recently signed newcomers Delentz Pierre, Luis Rivera, Amfery Sinclair, Emeka Eneli or Bertin Jacquesson — to say nothing of training camp invites Fernando Delgado, Bobby Pierre, Griffon Dillon, Luca Moisa, Gennaro Nigro, Benjamin Rodriguez, Zavier Gozo or Terron Williams, fate — or “the universe,” as Mastroeni says — has a way of making things work out the way they need to work out.

So stay patient. And remember that neither Rome nor MLS Cup contenders weren’t always built in a day.


RSL signed A GOMEZ on the first day of the preseason, but probably not the one Bogert had in mind, when it announced the signing of backup goalkeeper Tomas Gomez to a one-year extension with a team option for the 2024 season.

The 29-year-old Gomez, who spent all of last year backing up starting backstop Zac MacMath, was a 2015 third-round draft pick by Columbus before signing with San Jose as a free agent and eventually landing with the Rochester Rhinos in the USL Championship, where he won the league’s Golden Glove award given to the top goalkeeper in 2016 and 2017.

The club also announced that it had re-signed homegrown center back Erik Holt to a multi-year extension through the 2025 season, with a club option for 2026.

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