Brian Nicholson, Deseret News
SANDY — Justin Braun is coming home, and not just for a weekend visit to Salt Lake City with his Major League Soccer team either.
Real Salt Lake acquired the Skyline High graduate in a trade with Montreal on Wednesday, bringing home the only Utah native who plays in MLS.
Braun, 25, spent four productive seasons with Chivas USA before being dealt to expansion Montreal this past offseason. The production dropped off dramatically in Canada, but Real Salt Lake general manager Garth Lagerwey hopes a return to familiar surroundings helps Braun rediscover the form that led to 24 goals and 12 assists in four seasons with Chivas.
"The biggest thing I can say about him, he's got a track record," Lagerwey said. "He's scored 24 goals. That's not two or three goals, that's not 10 goals. That's 24 goals over four full seasons. That's a guy who can score in our league, and those players are always going to be worth something."
"To add a third proven goal scorer in our league, to go with what we feel are really talented kids in Paulo Jr. and Emiliano (Bonfigli), we got better today."
Braun will arrive in Utah on Wednesday evening, and he'll wear No. 13 with his new team. To acquire the striker, RSL only had to give up a conditional 2014 SuperDraft pick.
Lagerwey said it's great to have a Utah player on Real Salt Lake, but stressed the trade was made for soccer reasons only.
When RSL released forward Cody Arnoux a few weeks ago, Braun was one of the players Lagerwey targeted about trying to acquire.
"He's a proven scorer in the league, a proven player," Lagerwey said. "We like his work rate. We like having another big body up top. It's a little bit different look than Paulo and Bonfigli can give us off the bench. We really feel like ahead of CONCACAF it was important to add another type of striker."
Real Salt Lake kicks off CONCACAF Champions League group play on July 31 against Herediano in Costa Rica.
Along with Braun's acquisition, Lagerwey said that the addition of defenders Kenny Mansally and Kwame Watson-Siriboe in the past couple weeks has really improved the overall athleticism of Real Salt Lake.
Even though Braun only started five games with Montreal, registering just one assist, Lagerwey said Real Salt Lake prefers to look at his entire body of work. Last season with Chivas USA, the 6-foot-3 striker scored eight goals and added five assists. The year before it was nine goals and three assists.
Braun will likely serve as the first striker off the bench behind Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola, and he brings an offensive punch that has been lacking this season.
RSL coach Jason Kreis is excited about what Braun brings to the table, but how quickly he makes a meaningful impact remains to be seen.
"There will be some tactical learning for sure. I believe we play a different style than he's played on any team before. It's not like he's going to walk in and step into minutes and step into opportunities. He's going to have to earn those along the way. But we believe that he's very capable of it," said Kreis.
RSL's coach said he likes Braun's potential, likes his work rate and believes he's a good person.
"Those are the three things I want to work with. We'll get him in here and see if we can develop him into a top, top quality striker," said Kreis.
Braun graduated from Skyline High in 2005, and went on to play at Salt Lake Community College before he was signed by Chivas USA.
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