SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake general manager Garth Lagerwey makes one thing abundantly clear about acquiring Justin Braun from the Montreal Impact for a conditional 2014 SuperDraft pick: It’s because of what he can do on the field.
The fact that Braun is from the Salt Lake area, a 2005 Skyline High School graduate, was just icing on the cake.
"We made this as a soccer decision, I need that to be clear," Lagerwey said of the trade, completed on Wednesday. "We think Justin's a good soccer player. That's why we acquired him. We also think it's a good move to try to connect ourselves even further in the community."
Braun originally slipped through the cracks of RSL's scouting. His rise is well documented: Formerly a men's amateur team player in the Salt Lake City area discovered by former Chivas USA coach Preki, Braun eventually played for the Goats from 2008-11 and scored 24 goals in 108 games (including 77 starts).
Lagerwey said RSL have had their eye on Braun for a while, but now seemed to be the best time to grab him. He was traded to Montreal before this season, and had appeared in only 12 games for the Impact before Lagerwey made his move.
"Really excited to add Justin," Lagerwey said. "Big, athletic player that I think can play either one of the forward spots for us. He can spell [Álvaro] Saborío, he can spell [Fabián] Espíndola. I think he's going to push our two young kids in Paulo [Jr.] and Emiliano [Bonfigli] — really a versatile player who I think is really going to help us."
Braun admitted he is still in a little bit of a daze since hearing the news.
"It was kind of disbelief," Braun said of his first reaction. "My first instinct was to call my parents and fill them in on it. They have been my best fans and support system through all this."
Now that he has had a day to reflect on it, he said it still hasn't quite sunk in, but that he is eager to get things going.
"Very excited, looking forward to getting after it and starting things up," he said. "It's nice to be back home, to be able to play in front of friends and family, I think it's going to be a special experience for me.
"I remember five years ago, I was up in the stands as a fan," he added. "I was always dreaming of being out on the field, to put on that jersey, and now, to get that opportunity, it has been a dream come true."
So what does Braun think he can add to the RSL attack?
"I think I keep defenders guessing,” he said. “I'm able to find little gaps and put myself in position in front of the goal and then score goals."
Lagerwey agreed with the forward's self-assessment.
"He's got a motor," Lagerwey said. "He doesn't stop working. He battles and he fights. He's the type of player when he's playing against you, it's easy to root against him, and when he's playing for you, you're really happy to have him."
Added Braun: "I think it will be nice to be on the other end of the fan side, having them cheer for me rather than against me.”