SANDY Depending on who you listen to, last week's MLS SuperDraft was either a tremendous success or a tremendous failure for Real Salt Lake.
On the one hand, various soccer writers around the country gave RSL a collective "F" for gambling with every one of its three picks. According to RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey, however, his coaching staff did much more homework than outside observers are giving them credit for.
Lagerwey admits it would've been safer to grab a proven college player in the first round of the draft, but that just wasn't the direction the organization wanted to go with the 12th overall selection. Instead, the club grabbed Jean Alexandre, a Haitian international who played his college soccer at Lynn College, a Division II school in Florida.
"When we go into the draft we try and hit home runs. And we think this kid can be a home run," Lagerwey said. "We work for an organization that allows us to take risks and try and bring home a player that's maybe a little bit less conventional but has more upside. And this kid has upside."
Alexandre got his first glimpse of Utah on Tuesday as Real Salt Lake formally introduced him to the media during a press conference at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The soft-spoken Alexandre was noticeably nervous, but extremely excited about the opportunity in front of him.
"I'm so excited, I'm actually sweating," said Alexandre. "It's so different for me, I'm just enjoying it right now."
Heading into last week's draft Alexandre had no idea what to expect. Unlike most of the other first-round draft choices, Alexandre wasn't invited to St. Louis for the SuperDraft festivities. All indications were that he would be a second- or third-round selection. Real Salt Lake had different thoughts.
After all, this was the player who embarrassed RSL in a preseason game in Florida last year.
"There's no profound scouting story here. We played a game against Lynn College, we suffered an embarrassing defeat that made us question the work we'd done for the previous six months, and we tried to find the silver lining of this kid," Lagerwey said.
Alexandre played striker throughout his senior season at Lynn, but RSL coach Jason Kreis doesn't envision him playing that position in the pros. Alexandre is a natural midfielder who only played striker out of necessity last year. His first choice is playing center mid. He loves being involved in the action both from an attacking and defending perspective.6 comments on this story
Kreis knows selecting the unknown Alexandre raised some eyebrows, but he's not really concerned about that.
"At the end of the day it's not really important how everybody else views our picks, it's how we view the pick and how valuable we think he is to our franchise," Kreis said. "We know in our hearts it's a smart decision. Ultimately, I don't think it's really going to take that long ... the first couple times he steps on the field everyone's going to agree with our decision."RSL's players officially report for training camp on Jan. 29.