Draft will keep RSL coach guessing

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Real Salt Lake coach John Ellinger has a lot of things to consider when he makes his picks in today's Major League Soccer expansion draft.

Players' ages, injuries they have had and how much money they might demand are among the questions. He may also consider players who have been in his programs.

Most of the American players available in the draft learned under his tutelage during his seven-year stint at the head of U.S. Soccer's U-17 training program,

"When there's familiarity, you feel comfortable with them and you're happy to have them," Ellinger said. Some of the better players Ellinger has coached before include Columbus defender Nelson Akwari, Colorado midfielder Seth Trembly, Chicago defender Evan Whitfield, San Jose forward/mid Chris Brown and goalkeepers Adin Brown from New England and D.J. Countess from Chicago.

"They've certainly expressed interest in coming here," Ellinger said.

The biggest priorities for Ellinger and general manager Steve Pastorino today will be proven goal-scorers, an attacking midfielder and competitive defenders. Players that filled in at the end of games for their current teams, Ellinger said, may get a chance to start with Real.

"If we can get an attacking midfielder out of the draft, that would be an extra point for us," Ellinger said. The best candidates for that position include Ronnie Ekelund, a senior international with San Jose, and Andy Williams from Chicago.

Youth is another priority for RSL. Considering the FieldTurf at Rice-Eccles Stadium and Utah's altitude, Ellinger said he likely will not pick anyone older than 32.

"Overall, I think it will be a young team," Ellinger said. That rules out players like Kansas City's Preki and Tony Meola, and San Jose's Jeff Agoos.

Other players likely to be high on Ellinger's list include San Jose's Brian Kamler and Rusty Pierce, New England captain Joey Franchino and Columbus' Eric Denton.

CD Chivas USA, the league's other expansion team, will pick first in the draft, making Ellinger's job today somewhat more difficult. Especially so, considering that every time a player is picked his team is allowed to protect one more. That means that RSL's options will immediately be trimmed from 68 to 66 players with Chivas' first pick.