SANDY — With several veteran players out of contract, Real Salt Lake general manager Garth Lagerwey acknowledged a few weeks ago that retaining everyone under the tight MLS salary cap constraints probably wouldn't be realistic this offseason.
Trading Robbie Russell's rights to D.C. United on Tuesday was the first evidence of that impossible task.
In exchange for Russell, Real Salt Lake acquired a third-round draft pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft.
In a press release statement, Russell said, "Firstly, I want to thank the players, fans and the RSL organization, all of whom have been so amazing to me over the last 31/2 years," it read. "There are a lot of really great guys on this team and I'm going to miss all of them, and I wish the Real Salt Lake organization all the best in the future and know they will continue to do well in the coming years."
Russell went on to say that the Salt Lake area and Rio Tinto Stadium will hold a special place in his heart, but acknowledged that moving to Washington D.C. where his wife is an attorney is a much better situation for his family.
Russell will forever be linked to RSL's 2009 championship season, as he delivered the winning penalty kick against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The 32-year-old Russell appeared in 26 of 34 regular-season games this year, and his veteran presence and durability were extremely important down the stretch as RSL dealt with numerous injuries along the backline.
"Moving a key veteran on from RSL is never an easy decision to make, but the salary budget restrictions are cruel and it was going to be nearly impossible to keep Robbie heading into next season," Lagerwey said in a prepared statement. "In making this move, we are reuniting Robbie with his wife, who has lived apart from him in Washington, D.C. for most of the past two years. We are also remaining consistent with our ideal of helping players toward the end of their careers get to the place where they would like to finish their careers, as we did with Clint Mathis after the 2009 season.
"We believe that our player-friendly culture gives us the best chance for success as a small-market team in a big-market world, and we wish Robbie continued success and our deepest gratitude for what he helped create here at Real Salt Lake."
Other RSL players who are out of contract are Ned Grabavoy, Andy Williams and Arturo Alvarez. As for players like Fabian Espindola, Yordany Alvarez, Nelson Gonzalez and Paulo Jr., there are loan options that RSL needs to pick up to retain their services.