Coach Jason Kreis and general manager Garth Lagerwey knew that if they took home to Real Salt Lake a first-round pick from the Major League Soccer SuperDraft on Thursday, they probably were going to have to get rid of one of the guys already on the team.
So they took cash, instead.
In a move designed to keep its existing core of players together, RSL traded to Chivas USA the No. 14 pick of the draft for valuable "allocation" money that can be used to reduce the amount that its player salaries count against the league salary budget.
Without it, Kreis said, "we would have had to change our roster."
So while the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps made 17-year-old forward Omar Salgado a surprise No. 1 pick that dropped forward Darlington Nagbe and midfielder Perry Kitchen to No. 2 and 3, leading a record five Akron Zips taken in the first eight picks - RSL accepted the undisclosed amount of allocation money from former assistant coach Robin Fraser and Chivas USA, and called it a victory.
The team later picked up left-footed midfielder Jarad vanSchaik of the University of Portland with its only other pick, No. 52 pick in the third round. But he's considered mostly a flier (who likely will earn the league minimum $40,000 a year, if he makes the team) for a team loaded with talent and no easy places for a rookie to crack the lineup.
"We told ourselves that if we walked out of this draft with nothing but money, we would be happy," Kreis said.
That money will help RSL afford the contract extensions it has recently given to three players forward Alvaro Saborio and Paulo Junior, and midfielder Will Johnson and the ones it's negotiating with defender Nat Borchers and goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
Knowing his team needed such financial flexibility far more than another player, Lagerwey had hinted strongly that RSL would trade one or both of its picks.
Team officials said they entered the draft with a list of six players they believed were "special" enough to choose in spite of their budgetary concerns, but all of them were gone within the first 10 picks.
"It was far more important to keep the guys we have," Lagerwey said.
The Goats wound up using the No. 14 pick on forward Victor Estupinan, an Ecuadorian who was among the handful of non-collegiate foreigners available in the draft. They also landed defender Zarek Valentin of Akron with the No. 4 pick, in their effort to rebuild under Fraser after missing the playoffs last season for the first time in five years.
RSL had no such concerns after enjoying its best regular-season ever, despite its unexpectedly early exit from the playoffs.
It opens preseason training camp next week aiming to take care of what majority owner Dave Checketts has called "unfinished business," and it's better positioned to make another run at the MLS Cup now that it doesn't have to get rid of one of its experienced players to make room for an unproven one.
"It's not a sexy draft," Lagerwey acknowledged, "but it's an efficient draft."
League commissioner Don Garber suffered an embarrassing moment at the MLS SuperDraft, when he used a Twitter post to congratulate Darlington Nagbe as the No. 1 pick. The No. 1 pick was actually Omar Salgado, pictured. Garber quickly removed his original post, but not before it made the rounds of the Twitterverse. In a subsequent tweet, he apologized for his mistake and congratulated Salgado.
MLS SuperDraft first round
1. Vancouver • Omar Salgado*, forward
2. Portland • Darlington Nagbe* (Akron), forward
3. D.C. United • Perry Kitchen* (Akron), midfielder
4. Chivas USA • Zarek Valentin* (Akron), defender
5. Philadelphia • Zac MacMath* (Maryland), goalkeeper
6. New England • A.J. Soares (Cal), defender
7. Houston • Kofi Sarkodie* (Akron), defender
8. Vancouver • Michael Nanchoff* (Akron), midfielder
9. Chicago • Jalil Anibaba (North Carolina), defender
10. Kansas City • CJ Sapong (James Madison), forward
11. Houston • Will Bruin* (Indiana), forward
12. Columbus • Rich Balchan (Indiana), defender
13. New York • Corey Hertzog* (Penn State), forward
14. Chivas USA • Victor Estupinan, forward
15. Columbus • Justin Meram (Michigan), forward
16. Los Angeles • Paolo Cardozo, midfielder
17. FC Dallas • Bobby Warshaw (Stanford), defender
18. Colorado • Eddie Ababio (North Carolina), defender
*Generation Adidas player whose salary does not count against team salary budget