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Expansion Draft Wish List: Real Salt Lake

A royal fall from grace leaves RSL with many questions.

MLS: SuperDraft Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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Last night, Real Salt Lake’s season ended in the StubHub Center against the LA Galaxy in the MLS Cup Knockout Round. They had a surprisingly good season, but their form dipped dramatically as the calendar turned to fall.

With an older core to the roster, questions like these have to be floating around the offices right now:

The group that carried RSL to a MLS Cup trophy in 2009, a CONCACAF Champions League final, and another MLS Cup final under Jason Kreis is starting to show its age. Will RSL show sentimentality in holding on to its club legends, or will it risk leaving them exposed in the Expansion Draft? From looking at the whole roster, they will probably do a little of both.

Projected Protected Players

  1. Kyle Beckerman
  2. Tony Beltran
  3. Olmes Garcia
  4. Juan Manuel Martinez
  5. Aaron Maund
  6. Yura Movsisyan
  7. Luke Mulholland
  8. Demar Phillips
  9. Sunny
  10. Joao Plata
  11. Nick Rimando

Exempt List

  1. Danilo Acosta
  2. Jordan Allen
  3. Lalo Fernandez
  4. Justen Glad
  5. Phanuel Kavita
  6. Sebastian Saucedo
  7. Ricardo Velazco

Available Players

  1. Jeff Attinella
  2. Pedro Baez
  3. Omar Holness
  4. Javier Morales
  5. Boyd Okwuonu
  6. Jamison Olave
  7. Devon Sandoval
  8. Chris Schuler
  9. John Stertzer
  10. Emery Welshman
  11. Chris Wingert

Targets for Atlanta United: Chris Schuler, Boyd Okwuonu, Devon Sandoval, Javier Morales

Jason: Atlanta United will have quite a few different options in choosing from RSL’s roster. There are two defenders with promise, a physical forward who has shown well in limited playing time, and a veteran attacking midfielder according to our projections.

Javier Morales will likely be the odd man out on RSL’s protected list. The 36-year-old has been the best player in RSL history, but they will struggle to protect him over some other players on this roster. Would Atlanta take a flyer on him? It’s possible if they see a role for him. I don’t think he can be a 90 minute player in Tata Martino’s system, but he could fill a role similar to Mauro Rosales in Dallas this year. He could be that calming, veteran influence off the bench and a mentor to young players.

Boyd Okwuonu is the player I’m most intrigued by from RSL. He has converted to a right back at the professional level, he played primarily as a center back at the University of North Carolina. At 5’9”, that was always going to be a challenge at the next level. With Tony Beltran ahead of him, playing time has been sparse. Okwuonu has been a fixture with U.S. youth national teams through the U23’s. His performances in the USL with the Real Monarchs have been strong.

Chris Schuler is a riskier proposition, but one to consider. Injuries forced the team to release him after the 2015 season, but he signed a USL deal with the Monarchs and was brought back to the first team late this season. Once one of the most promising center backs in the U.S., knee and foot injuries derailed his career. It will be up to Atlanta United’s front office to gauge whether the risk is too high on selecting him.

Devon Sandoval is a solid, hard working center forward that can get more minutes somewhere in this league. I’m not convinced that should be in Atlanta though as I wonder how he would fit into Tata Martino’s system of play. There are better RSL options in the Expansion Draft to consider.

Rob: Tata Martino could be intrigued by Javier Morales with the Argentinian connection. Yes, he’s up there in age, but in his days with Newell’s, Tata was no stranger to giving over-the-hill players significant minutes and getting the most out of them. Maybe Javi could become his Maxi Rodriguez?

Okwuonu is an interesting full-back option. At such a young age, he’s just entering his prime and hasn’t really been given a chance to show what he can do with Beltran blocking him. A change of scenery could do him wonders.

Schuler’s name was thrown around by USMNT fans not too long ago, but injuries have derailed that potential. He’s played in MLS just nine times in the last two seasons and doesn’t seem to have returned to his old self. If RSL haven’t deemed him ready for their lineup, I’m not sure Atlanta would be any different.

In a high pressing style, you need players with lots and lots of energy. That’s exactly what Devon Sandoval brings. He’s basically Carlos Tevez without the world-class skills. He could work as a pressing forward to come off the bench and disrupt games. However, I personally don’t think he’s worth one of the five picks, but you never know.