Breaking up the band – RSL’s roster moves begin – Updated Again

Well anyone who didn’t see this coming, simply wasn’t paying attention or had their head buried in the sand, but after the 3rd straight season with 15 wins (only 3 teams in MLS history have done this) and no trophies to show for it, the time for change was at hand.

While it might seem as simple as the inability to score goals in the biggest of matches, when Alvaro Saborio would often be double or tripled teamed in coverage, the issues are larger than that.  To a large extent Major League Soccer wants complete parity; they don’t want any one team being too good or too bad.  Of course we know that is only partial true and one has only to look at how the league deals with allocation money to see what I mean.  The worst teams in MLS, the ones who don’t make the playoffs get the larger portion of allocation money from the main pool of funds (the mysterious murky vault at MLS HQ).  This seems perfectly in line with a salary cap league who wants parity, but the waters get a bit muddier when you consider the extra allocation money given to teams who make it into the CONCACAF Champions League, and even more money if they advance to the knockout rounds.

This rewarding of the successful seems counter to the parity ideals of MLS, but it is their strong desire to find a way to establish MLS as a respectable league regionally by winning the CCL.  Something no MLS team has been able to do yet, the closest a team has come was the RSL run in 2010/11 version of the tournament when RSL made it to the finals.  Often MLS teams find themselves facing opponents with team rosters much deeper than MLS’s and payrolls often 4-5 times the MLS salary cap or more. For Real Salt Lake making the playoffs in 2012 but not advancing to the knockout rounds of the CCL, and not qualifying for the next edition of the tournament means that allocation money wasn’t going to come from MLS’s vault.

So forced with the reality of being over the cap by a large (7 figures) amount it was going to force Real Salt Lake into making a lot of changes in the off season.  Several players were out of contract, some had high priced options, and then there was the reality of trying to get better at the same time as reducing payroll to meet MLS’s salary cap.  No easy task, and one that will for sure upset fans as players loved by them are let go or traded to other teams.

The news started to trickle out via unofficial channels just after the season ended for RSL, with no official news coming out until today.  Here is what is officially known:

RSL has extended the contracts of both Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert, here is what RSL GM Garth Lagerwey said. “As we redefine our team’s core, we feel that they’re two critical building blocks for our future. They’re standout players and individuals and we’re thrilled to have them both back.”

We also know that the team didn’t pick up the option on  GK Kyle Reynish, FW Paulo Jr., MF Jonny Steele and FW Emiliano Bonfigli. Both Reynish and Paulo Jr. will be eligible for the 1st round of the MLS re-entry draft that will take place on 12/7.

Then there are the yet un-confirmed (by MLS standards) trades that were mentioned online yesterday and rumored for the last several weeks, the first has Fabian Espindola and Jamison Olave going to the New York Red Bulls.  So far the return to RSL is rumored to only be allocation money, but a significant amount.  The second is Will Johnson to the Portland Timbers, again the rumor is for a significant amount of allocation money.

It will be tough to see all of these players go, perhaps no two players worked harder on the pitch for RSL than Espindola and Johnson who with a seemingly endless supply of energy and drive.  It will also be hard to replace the incredible physical abilities of Jamison Olave, who has provided so many amazing plays in his time with RSL that you had to see them to believe them.

It is only the first day of MLS rosters being unfrozen, but clearly RSL has been working on these decisions for some time, and none of these are moves that I think were done quickly or without a lot of deliberation by the RSL staff.  None of that will replace the pain that fans will feel seeing so many beloved players leaving our team, but I firmly believe in the principle that once you are a part of the #RSLFamily  you are always a part of the family.

I wish the departing players nothing but the best in both their professional and personal lives, and I want to thank each of you for making my life more enjoyable during your stay with Real Salt Lake.

Update #1

You knew it wasn’t over for the week but turns out it wasn’t even over for the day as RSL makes another move (from @espn700bill) telling us that RSL has traded Justin Braun to Toronto FC for Aaron Maund,  a 6-1, 185lbs defender. US Citizen who has represented T&T youth system and the USMNT at the U-20 level. All-Best East at ND. You can find more on Maund on the MLS Player page for him.

Update #2

Well we all knew it was coming but the trade of Fabian Espindola and Jamison Olave to the New York Red Bulls is now official. From the RSL press release:

Both players played a major role on RSL squads that won MLS Cup 2009, advanced to the 2010/11 CONCACAF Champions League Final and qualified for an active league-high five-consecutive MLS Cup Playoff appearances from 2008-12.

“Fabían and Jámison were huge parts of RSL’s foundation,” Lagerwey said. “They both played major roles in our 2009 MLS Cup championship, our run to the CCL Final and our five-straight postseason appearances.”

“Unfortunately, all of this continued success has placed severe salary cap constraints on the club. Those constraints were the driving force behind this trade, which we believe will help us reload for the 2013 season.”

All of this on day 1 of the roster un-freeze and trade window opening for MLS, I still expect a few more things before the list of players going into the re-entry draft is released on Thursday.

Update #3

Folks we knew this one was coming too as RSL trades Will Johnson to the Portland Timbers, here is some info from the official press release:

SANDY, Utah (Monday, Dec. 3, 2012) – Real Salt Lake has traded veteran MF Will Johnson to Portland Timbers FC in exchange for allocation money. Per league and club policy, the amount of allocation money exchanged will not be disclosed.

Johnson was a part of RSL squads that won MLS Cup 2009, advanced to the 2010/11 CONCACAF Champions League Final and qualified for an active league-high five-consecutive MLS Cup Playoff appearances from 2008-12.

“Will’s arrival in the summer of 2008 was one of the major tipping points in our club’s history,” Lagerwey said. “RSL truly would not be where it is without Will. We can’t thank him enough for helping us establish not only a good team, but also a winning culture. We wish him all the best in Portland.”

This one probably hurts me more than some others as I consider Will Johnson a personal friend, he has always taken time to stop and talk after practices and often away from the pitch as well.  Like all the departing RSL players I wish them all the best both on and off the pitch.

That’s How I See It.


  1. Matt says:

    Do anyone else have an expiring contract besides Javi? He is one of the guys rumored to be gone as well. Does this also mean that Braun is going to get another year with RSL? Thanks for the info.

    • admin says:

      Nobody else is out of contract, I haven’t heard any updates on his status other than they were in talks with him. Clearly we would like him to stay a few more years but we also have to be budget wise and his production isn’t the same as what it was when we made him a DP.

      I believe that Justin will most likely be gone, his contract wasn’t that cheap and things just didn’t seem to click for him here. Remember this is just the first day of the rosters being un-frozen, so I expect a lot more will be coming in the next few days before the re-entry draft.

      • Matt says:

        Gotcha. It is going to be real tough seeing Will in a Timbers uniform 3 times a year. At least we will only see Olave and Fabi once since they are going to the East. Looking forward to the future but definitely a sad day seeing all this guys go but that is part of the game.

  2. Matt says:

    Well you were right about Braun. Back to Canada and we get a young CB. The back line looks good for next year.

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