What happens beyond this year, however, is very much up in the air.
It was reported earlier this summer that Czech club SK Slavia Prague were looking to acquire Movsisyan on a year-long loan. Their interest was real, but Prague have backed off in recent weeks, with one source saying that any hope of a deal with the UEFA Champions League participants appears “dead.”
A loan would’ve likely led to a boost in playing time for Movsisyan, who’s endured a frustrating year with RSL. The 30-year-old striker returned to Salt Lake for his second stint in Utah in January 2016, when he joined the club on a year-long loan from Russian side Spartak Moscow. He tallied nine goals and three assists in 29 regular season games to help RSL to the playoffs last season. Salt Lake then signed him to a permanent deal through 2019 that pays him slightly less than $2 million per year on average.
Though he started 2017 with four goals in his first seven games, Movsisyan has had a hard time getting minutes since RSL replaced former head coach Jeff Cassar with Mike Petke on March 29. The Armenian international has started only five of RSL’s 15 league matches since May 13, and has played just 117 minutes in the team’s current six-game unbeaten run.
Movsisyan expressed unhappiness with his lack of playing time in May. The discussions with Slavia Prague followed later in the summer. RSL also looked at trade options for the striker, who both sources said would rather remain in MLS than return to Europe. RSL had preliminary talks with the LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes, but neither discussion led to a formal offer before the trade window closed last week.
RSL will likely have a hard time trading Movsisyan once the window re-opens this winter. It’s doubtful that any team will want to take on his large contract for the next two years. Complicating matters further is the fact that Movsisyan has a no-trade clause. Even if RSL manages to make a deal, he could veto it for any reason.
With foreign suitors scarce and a trade looking like a long shot, RSL and Movsisyan are most likely staring at two potential options this winter: The club could buy out his contract and make him a free agent or the two sides could try to make things work again in 2018.
Neither source had a firm grasp on how the they think the situation will play out.
Both said it’s possible that Movsisyan works his way back into the RSL lineup this year and comes back to Utah happy and motivated in 2018. If that doesn’t happen, RSL could attempt to buy out his contract. League rules state that each club is allowed to buy out one player who has a guaranteed contract during the offseason and free up the corresponding budget space at their own expense.
Whatever happens, RSL and Movsisyan will have a big decision on their hands this winter, one neither side could’ve possibly anticipated when they made his transfer permanent less than a year ago.