Considering the circumstances, Wednesday was a banner day for Real Salt Lake.
On a day when it could've lost any combination of players involving Ned Grabavoy, Collen Warner, Robbie Russell and Chris Schuler in the expansion draft, it went virtually unscathed.
RSL didn't escape entirely, as the Portland Timbers nabbed both David Horst and Robbie Findley in the expansion draft, but they were minimal losses at best. Horst spent most of the year on loan, and Findley had already informed the club he wouldn't be returning next year.
All things considered, Real actually improved itself Wednesday by acquiring Arturo Alvarez from Portland in a post-draft trade.
The San Jose midfielder was picked in the 10th and final round of the expansion draft by Portland, but was traded to Real Salt Lake just a few hours later for a second-round pick in the 2011 SuperDraft. It was the pick RSL acquired in the Carey Talley trade with Chivas USA a few years ago.
"We're stoked to get him. The guy has obviously done really well against us. He's a dynamic left-footed attacking player," said RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey. "We've lost Findley, but we've added Arturo, and if we can tie up Paulo Jr. and (Alvaro Saborio), we're probably better at that position than we were when the day started, and I'm amazed to be saying that considering we lost two players."
Lagerwey said negotiations to keep Saborio long term are ongoing, but he expects a resolution next week. Paulo Jr. is on loan from Miami FC of the United Soccer Leagues, and Lagerwey is hopeful to sign him long term as well.
Alvarez said he can't wait to join the team on Jan. 20 when it kicks off training camp in preparation for the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League.
"It's a perfect situation for me. We all know how good of a team Real Salt Lake is, and to go in there and be a part of that now is great," said Alvarez. "It's always good to surround yourself with good players, and hopefully I can add to that team."
Even though Findley is a U.S. National Team forward who Real wanted back, Findley informed the team earlier this week he's going to pursue playing opportunities overseas. According to reports, he has a trial set up with Randers FC in Denmark — the same team Yura Movsisyan signed with last season.
By drafting the speedy striker, Portland is obviously hoping to convince Findley to stay in MLS. If that doesn't pan out initially, the Timbers retain his rights if he returns to MLS.
Realistically, RSL has been making contingency plans for months, anticipating Findley's departure. It acquired fellow striker Paulo Jr. on loan in September, and the Brazilian striker showed flashes of brilliance during his brief stint with the club. RSL thinks so highly of Paulo Jr., he was one of the 11 players it protected for the expansion draft.
Horst spent most of the 2010 season on loan with the Puerto Rico Islanders in the USL, and he was very impressive. He was a big reason why the Islanders won the USL title and why they qualified for the CONCACAF Champions League group play.
RSL drafted Horst in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft, but he was stuck behind Nat Borchers and Jamison Olave on the depth chart and rarely played.
"He's a very good young player. Ton of talent, ton of potential. We certainly wish him the best," said Lagerwey. "He's behind two defender-of-the-year candidates here, so it's hard to begrudge him the opportunity to launch his career in MLS with an expansion team."
Salt Lake was allowed to move another player back to its protected list once Horst was taken in the fifth round, which ended up being Warner. Findley was plucked away one round later, putting RSL at the maximum number of players it could lose in the expansion draft.
Portland had the first pick in the expansion draft, and to no one's surprise it selected FC Dallas midfielder Dax McCarty. Most were shocked that Dallas did not protect its 23-year-old rising star, and Portland jumped at the chance to select him. The Timbers traded McCarty to D.C. United several hours later.
Real Salt Lake fans will remember that it was McCarty's goal at Rio Tinto Stadium in the playoffs that proved to be the series clincher. Vancouver snagged Seattle forward Sanna Nyassi with its first-round pick.
Seattle, Dallas, Columbus, Real Salt Lake, Chicago and Chivas USA each lost the maximum number of players in the expansion draft. Los Angeles, Houston, New York and New England didn't lose anybody.