Countess should be Real Salt Lake's first pick

Published: Friday, Nov. 19 2004 12:00 a.m. MST

Real Salt Lake's Jason Kreis, acquired via a trade Monday, owns a resume virtually any soccer player would be proud of. After all, who wouldn't want to be Major League Soccer's all-time leading scorer with 91 goals.
Don't expect the credentials of Real's second player to be quite as long.
Chicago keeper D.J. Countess will likely be Salt Lake's first player taken in today's expansion draft between Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA (Los Angeles). The 10-round draft, broadcast on ESPNews, begins at 2 p.m., and Real's team headquarters will be the SkyBox Sports Grille in the Gateway.
In some respects, Real and Chivas aren't necessarily targeting the same players. Because of the unique nature of Chivas' franchise, modeled after Mexico's most popular club and led by the same owner, the team wants all players to speak Spanish regardless of ethnic origin.
For Salt Lake, the bottom line is getting the best players available who can complement Kreis and fit into coach John Ellinger's schemes.
Countess would be a great start.
Paper-thin professional resume aside, the 22-year-old Countess could be a major component of Real Salt Lake for years to come. A year after starting 24 of 30 games for the Dallas Burn in 2003 and being named the team's defender of the year, Countess ended up with Chicago in 2004 and was a non-factor at the end of the bench. He only started two games while backing up Henry Ring.
If Salt Lake does indeed make Countess its top pick, it will be banking on his upside.
Not only did Countess prove himself with Dallas in 2003, but he was the U.S. Under-23 National Team's starting goalie during the 2004 CONCACAF Men's Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Guadalajara, Mexico.
In an attempt to project all 20 picks of the mock draft, the Deseret Morning News enlisted the services of ESPN soccer analyst Eric Wynalda, who played 106 games with the U.S. National Team during his career. (See accompanying chart for complete mock draft results).
Wynalda expects Chivas to snag Chicago's Orlando Perez with the first pick in the draft, followed by Countess. While Wynalda sees decent talent available to teams in rounds two through five, he believes there's a significant drop off after that.
Two main rules dictate how the expansion draft will unfold. While the 10 MLS teams are only allowed to protect 12 players (excluding developmental players and Project-40 players who don't count), once a team loses a player in the draft, it can add another player to its protected list. No team can lose more than three players.
After the expansion draft, Salt Lake will focus on foreign discoveries, allocations and then January's Super Draft to fill out the remainder of its roster.

E-mail: jedward@desnews.com

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