Andy Williams and D.J. Countess -- as their first two picks in the MLS Expansion Draft on Friday which stocked the team with a mixture of youthful promise and veteran leadership.
Williams, a Jamaican international midfielder, and Countess, a 22-year-old goalkeeper who played for RSL head coach John Ellinger on U.S. youth national teams, will provide the expansion team a high-profile spine from front to back, along with recently-acquired striker Jason Kreis, the all-time leading scorer in MLS history.
The two early selections from Friday's draft can hardly be considered surprising.
The well-traveled Williams recently received his Green Card from the U.S. government, meaning he will no longer be counted as a Senior International. Real Salt Lake will be the sixth team that Williams will be a part of in eight seasons, and though he has bounced around a lot, Williams has consistently proven to be an attacking force for both club and country.
Williams commented after his selection that he anticipated being used as an attacking midfielder. He even stirred the rumor pot surrounding former MetroStars striker and U.S. national team member Clint Mathis, saying that he could "play behind Clint and Jason." Mathis is currently playing for Hannover 96 in Germany.
After a trying season with the Dallas Burn in 2003, Countess found himself as a backup upon arriving in Chicago. However, Ellinger is familiar with Countess, as he was of the U.S. squad that Ellinger coached at the U-17 World Championships in 1999. A native of California, Countess could be the man that Ellinger puts between the pipes for Salt Lake's first campaign.
With their third pick, Real picked young Costa Rican international Pablo Brenes from the MetroStars. Brenes is a player that many expected could be joining CD Chivas USA, but instead he was among the first players to be chosen by Salt Lake.
Checketts and Ellinger followed up the Brenes selection by taking a player who has been around the league since its inception.Brian Kamler of the New England Revolution adds leadership and abundant experience to the Real Salt Lake midfield. He also is familiar with the process of building a team from scratch, as he was a rookie on the D.C. United team that won the first MLS Cup in 1996.
Real then went to the youth path again, picking up Crew midfielder Nelson Akwari. The Texas native played in 19 games for Columbus in 2004, helping the Crew defense become one of the strongest in the league. He was a big part of that side's record-breaking 18-game unbeaten streak.
The pattern would continue as Real would next add Chris Brown of the San Jose Earthquakes. A versatile athlete who can play both midfield and forward, Brown could figure into Ellinger's plans in a number of different ways.
Matt Behncke, a 24-year-old defender from the Dallas Burn, was chosen in the seventh round, followed by another more experienced defender in the eighth, as Rusty Pierce will move to Utah after five seasons with the New England Revolution.
The final two players chosen by Real Salt Lake were Kevin Ara (D.C. United) and Erick Scott (Columbus Crew). Ara saw limited action for United in his rookie season after a successful collegiate career at Harvard. A forward from Costa Rica, Scott only played six games for Columbus in 2004, finishing the season with no points in 143 minutes of action.
Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.