Real Salt Lake: There's always next year

By Brian Westfall, Soccer Editor

MLS Features Salt Lake City, UT (Sports Network) - Winless Real Salt Lake waived the white flag Thursday.

But for 19 more games - lose, tie or lose - the Utah club is in for a long season.

Maybe even a winless one.

RSL traded veteran midfielder Chris Klein on Thursday. Yep, the only player on its roster who played every minute of every game this season. Why does a team that hasn't won since Sept. 16, 2006 need a four-time MLS All-Star anyway?

"Trading a veteran with the attributes and professionalism of a Chris Klein is never an easy thing to do ...," RSL Technical Director/Director of Soccer Operations John Ellinger said.

Really? Because less than a month ago the team traded 2006 Golden Boot Winner Jeff Cunningham. The same guy who had 16 goals and 11 assists last season.

"I just do not see Jeff fitting in with my long-term plans for this team," RSL coach Jason Kreis said last month.

Long-term? That certainly doesn't mean later this season. But a winless season can't be good for long-term plans, either.

There's no argument Real Salt Lake traded the present for the future when it shipped Cunningham to Toronto and Klein to Los Angeles. The players (RSL also acquired a draft pick for Cunningham) the club acquired - Alecko Eskandarian, Robbie Findley and Nathan Sturgis - give RSL arguably the best young nucleus in MLS.

They join a roster already featuring Freddy Adu and Chris Seitz, members of the United States Under-20 National Team playing in FIFA World Cup from June 30 to July 22. Sturgis is also on the U.S. team.

With the recent trades, 20 players on Real Salt Lake's roster were born in 1982 or after. That's 20 players who are 25 or younger. Adu, who turned 18 this month, is the youngest.

Chris Klein
Chris Klein played every minute of every game this season for Salt Lake.

Chris Brown, Ritchie Kotschau, Nick Rimando, Carey Talley, Daniel Torres and Andy Williams might want to pack their bags. They were all born before 1980.

Eddie Pope, 33, who recently announced he is going to retire at the end of the year, has nothing to worry about. Well, maybe he'll be traded next.

Obviously he doesn't fit into the long-term plans either.

It's somewhat understandable that RSL traded Cunningham - who scored three goals with RSL - and Klein. The team sure wasn't winning with them, so it can't get much worse without them.

And considering RSL has led for just 43 minutes this year, scored just eight goals and been shutout seven times, it needed a shake-up. And the team has accomplished that this season.

Kreis' retirement and appointment as head coach was the first domino. If he was still playing, he might trade himself. After all, his is 34.

Worth noting, Cunningham, Kreis and Klein combined for 31 of the team's 45 goals last year. The trio also combined for 24 assists.

That leaves just six players on the roster who had at least one goal or one assist for RSL last year.

Brown is team's current leader with three goals after scoring two in a loss to Los Angeles last week, but he won't play Saturday against D.C. United because of a hamstring strain.

Adu - who will be with the U.S. team - and Klein are the only other players who had a goal or assist for RSL this year. Adu has one goal and two assists and Klein had one goal and one assist.

Maybe that means RSL won't score until they return. Or maybe not until next season, which may be when Real Salt Lake (0-5-6) finally wins again.

Perhaps that's just part of Kreis' long-term plan, too.

Because although the amount of young talent Real Salt Lake has bodes well for the future, is waiting until next year for wins really worth it?

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