With four of the first 37 picks in Friday's MLS SuperDraft not to mention plenty of room under the salary cap and several international roster spots available Real Salt Lake had the potential for a frantic day involving numerous trades.
Instead, the new regime kept things simple and had a banner day in its minds.
"We're very relieved to walk out of here with four players that we really, really liked," said RSL coach Jason Kreis.
With the third overall pick, Real selected UCLA midfielder/defender Anthony Beltran, followed by Old Dominion defender David Horst with the 14th pick and 17-year-old midfielder/forward Alex Nimo with the 17th pick.
At No. 37, it nabbed Brennan Tennelle, a midfielder out of UC Santa Barbara.
RSL's technical staff had all four rookies on its list of the 20 best available players. All four are scheduled to report to the first day of training camp in Salt Lake City on Jan. 26.
Prior to Friday's draft, Real had already made a splash this offseason by trading Alecko Eskandarian and Atiba Harris to Chivas USA, in addition to agreeing in principle to contracts with an American defender playing abroad, an Argentine midfielder and a Colombian defender.
After Kansas City opened the draft by selecting UCLA midfielder Chance Myers, followed by FC Dallas grabbing Brek Shea, RSL jumped at the chance to pick Beltran, even though most mock drafts had the team going after a central defender.
In college and with the U.S. Under-20 National Team, Beltran proved his versatility by playing multiple positions in the midfield and along the backline. The Generation adidas player, however, is prepared to make right back his home.
"Over the years I've played several different positions, and it's great to be diverse, but at the next level, you have to specialize," said Beltran, 20. "I'm working hard to get to that level as a right back."
Beltran is a fast player who's also extremely confident with his ability to cross balls into the box, a dimension that should also bolster RSL's attack.
It's impossible to predict Beltran's impact on Real Salt Lake in 2008, but Kreis believes the addition of the California native will create outstanding competition for the starting spot in practice each day.
"He's a guy that will compete and raise the level of the training sessions," said Kreis.
The Claremont, Calif., native played his freshman year at St. John's before transferring to UCLA for his sophomore and junior seasons. In 2006 he started 21 games, finishing with one assist. Last year, he started 21 matches, adding two assists.
With its other three selections, RSL grabbed a towering central defender, a 17-year-old firecracker with a bright future, and a player it hopes evolves into a late-round steal.
Horst will provide immediate depth for RSL at center back, checking in at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds. He was a four-year starter at Old Dominion.
"It was very nerve-racking this whole week leading up to the draft, you're sitting there and you're not sure you're going to go," said Horst. "Both in the short and long, I'm going to provide leadership to the back line and hopefully to the team. Every time I go out there, I'm going to lay my heart on the line."
It's that workmanlike attitude that no doubt attracted Kreis to a defender who isn't just tall but who Kreis believes is very athletic.
Nimo, 17, is a native of Portland, Ore., and was a Parade All-American high school player last year. At 5-foot-5, he isn't a very big forward, but he's already amassed a pretty impressive resume, including starting in all four games for the United States at last summer's FIFA U-17 World Cup.
"Every single player in that draft is hit or miss and lacks that professional experience, but for us the potential for him and his upside is astronomical," said Kreis.Tennelle is San Diego native and a player with a lot of potential. Several other MLS teams were likely targeting him in next week's supplemental draft, according to Kreis, but RSL didn't want to run the risk of hoping he fell that far.
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