After four seasons spent as one of the premier franchises in Major League Soccer, Real Salt Lake took a major step Monday to breaking up the band.
RSL shipped defender Jámison Olave and striker Fabián Espíndola to the New York Red Bulls for allocation money in an attempt to rebuild for next season and grab their first title of any kind since winning MLS Cup 2009.
While the move will undoubtedly give RSL the funds needed to play a more active role in the offseason than they have in years past, it comes at a price. Both players dealt on Monday played crucial roles in the team's success of the past four seasons, including their first title in franchise history and three successive postseason appearances.
The bigger name is easily Olave, 31, the 2010 MLS Defender of the Year and a two-time Best XI selection. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Colombian import scored the team’s first goal at Rio Tinto Stadium during his debut season with the club in 2008 and went on to make 120 regular-season appearances over five years while pairing with Nat Borchers to anchor one of the best defensive lines in the league.
He also started all four postseason games during the team’s MLS Cup 2009 run and was a vital part of the club’s run to the final of the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League, scoring the decisive goal of the team’s semifinal series win over Costa Rican side Saprissa.
Olave battled injuries for much of 2012, however, and posted career lows in appearances (21) and goals (none) while youngsters Chris Schuler and Kwame Watson-Siriboe both emerged as viable options for the future in Salt Lake City. Olave joins a Red Bulls backline that already includes center backs Markus Holgersson and Wilman Conde, along with Designated Player Rafa Márquez.
Espíndola, 27, enjoyed a career year in 2012 with nine goals and seven assists over a career-high 30 appearances. Paired with Costa Rican striker Álvaro Saborío since 2010, he emerged as a fiery presence up top for Salt Lake and could find himself starting with New York Designated Player Thierry Henry in 2013 if he can beat out the competition from forward/midfielder Sébastien Le Toux and 2012 leading scorer Kenny Cooper.
“Fabian and Jamison are players who have excelled in Major League Soccer and provide an immediate boost to our squad,” said Red Bulls Sporting Director Andy Roxburgh. “Fabian is a pacy, technical forward who will be a strong complement to the players currently on our roster, while Jamison is a fast, dominant centerback who has shown that he is one of the best at his position in MLS. We are thrilled to bring them to New York as we prepare for the 2013 season.”
Later Monday, RSL continued their busy day by trading midfielder Will Johnson to Portland. Earlier in the day, they also dealt Salt Lake City native Justin Braun to Toronto FC for defender Aaron Maund.