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A return to Major League Soccer is indeed quite enticing to Yura Movsisyan, his agent confirmed to the Salt Lake Tribune this weekend. The 27-year-old forward who spent two and a half seasons at Real Salt Lake is currently in his third season starring at Spartak Moscow in the Russian Premier League.
"He's very interested in a return to the MLS," said Patrick McCabe, Movsisyan's agent. "It would be a number of options I think he would have, but he's definitely open-minded at this point. If that's Salt Lake, OK, or another MLS team, he would certainly be open-minded to pursuing. We'll have to see what shakes out here within the next few weeks between his club and himself and the other teams that are interested."
McCabe said Movsisyan still has two more years on his contract at Spartak, which ends in 2017. Movsisyan's rise in Europe, which started at Danish club Randers after leaving RSL upon helping the club win the 2009 MLS Cup title, saw him move from Randers to Russian Premier League club FC Krasnodar in 2011.
After two largely successful seasons there scoring 23 goals in 50 appearances Spartak Moscow completed a reported $9.7 million transfer for the Armenian striker in Dec. 2012. He scored 16 goals in 25 league appearances with Spartak during the 2013-2014 campaign.
So what appeals to Movsisyan about returning to MLS in the prime of his career?
"For anybody that knows Yura, there's nothing more important than family," McCabe said. "For him I think it's been difficult to be in Europe for as long as he has for. He and his wife Marianna have two young kids and they'd like to obviously raise them closer to Yura's family and her family in California. That's a major consideration I think at this point.
"Yura is driven by family. It's why he went to Europe to try to provide for them and he's done a good job of that. Europe is obviously a totally different competitive landscape when you're dealing with clubs, especially when you're dealing with Russian clubs."
Asked if a return to MLS is Movsisyan's No. 1 priority as they figure out his next move, McCabe was straightforward in saying he isn't optimistic about Movsisyan staying in Russia.
"I'm hopeful that a return to MLS can be worked out, but I'm also realistic in that I know that it may not," McCabe said. "I have to plan for a bunch of eventualities here, and one of them is that [a return to MLS] doesn't work out. I think if you asked [Yura], I think that would be his first choice, but we've had approaches in the past from other MLS teams, so we know that it may or may not happen."
Movsisyan's first two years in MLS were with the Kansas City Wizards where he didn't see that much time, scoring five goals in 28 appearances. In Sept. 2007, former RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey struck his first deal in his new position by trading for Movsisyan.
While at RSL, Movsisyan flourished. He scored 15 goals in 53 appearances, including having a hand in the equalizing goal in the 2009 MLS Cup final against the L.A. Galaxy at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Wash. Per MLS roster regulation, RSL still holds Movsisyan's MLS rights should he choose to return to the league. A club retains the rights to a player indefinitely following the expiration of a contract, provided the club extending a contract offer, which RSL did before Movsisyan left for Europe in 2010.
The two sides reportedly left on somewhat conflicting circumstances when the club turned down an initial transfer fee from Randers that would've allowed Movsisyan to join the Danish club in the summer of 2009, leaving RSL with some form of compensation. Instead, Movsisyan played out his contract and left on a free transfer after helping RSL to the MLS Cup title in 2009.
"I think he really enjoyed his time in Salt Lake and specifically in playing under Jason [Kreis] and under Garth [Lagerwey]," McCabe said. "Even though he left under probably a little bit of a cloud they were obviously unhappy that he left and wanted him to stay it was the right move for him at the right time. I think that while there are some names and faces are still familiar to him, it is a little bit of a different set-up, different ownership. [RSL] is maybe not as tied as Yura as maybe Dave Checketts was, who Yura enjoyed a close relationship with."
"I think [RSL technical director] Craig Waibel is a smart fella, and I think that he knows what Yura could bring to the team, but at the same time, it may not be a meeting of the minds that we hope for. We would be prepared for Salt Lake to say that they wanted him back or they didn't. Or they wanted him back, or they didn't value him in the way that Yura values himself at this point."
The fourth pick in the 2006 MLS SuperDraft, Movsisyan and his family emigrated to the United States from Azerbaijan when he was 12, moving to Pasadena, Calif. A former standout at Pasadena High School, Movsisyan went on to enroll at Pasadena City College before entering the 2006 draft pool on a Generation Adidas contract.