SALT LAKE CITY - Real Salt Lake announced today that the team has acquired Defender Jack Stewart from the Chicago Fire in exchange for Jamaican FW Ryan Johnson, in a move designed to bolster an RSL back line that has been decimated by injuries during the teams busiest month of the season.
The list of injuries suffered by the RSL defense over the last two weeks reflects the need to bring in additional help: Danny Torres (Right Foot Sprain) is out a minimum of six weeks, Cameron Knowles (Right Hamstring Pull) is out for two weeks, Nelson Akwari (Right Hip Contusion, Mild Concussion) is out one week and Eddie Pope (Right Foot Strain) is day-to-day, leaving Nikolas Besagno as the only healthy central defender on the roster.
Jack Stewart joins Real Salt Lake after having started four of his 14 games with the Fire's first team in regular season play, during which he scored one goal and totaled 540 minutes of play. Stewart also started in two of the Fire's three postseason contests in 2005, during which he tallied the Fire's game-winning goal in a 4-0 victory over D.C. United on Oct. 30, 2005 in the second leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinal Series.
Stewart made five appearances (one start) for the Fire's first team in 2006, totaling 139 minutes, and also contributed one goal in 431 minutes of play across five starts in MLS Reserve Division play. During his first full season with the Fire in 2005, the Southern California native scored one goal in 401 minutes over nine matches (three starts). Stewart took advantage of the newly started Reserve Division in 2005, topping the squad with 990 minutes, 11 games played and 11 starts.
Stewart welcomes the opportunity to come to Salt Lake, and is excited at the prospect of helping RSL continue to progress in MLS.
"I have been to Salt Lake City a few times and I really love the feel of the city," stated Stewart. "Leaving Chicago, the MLS team that drafted me, will be hard, but I keep hearing great things about Coach Ellinger and I am excited about the prospect of helping Real Salt Lake turn things around and make a run towards the playoffs. I view this as the next important step in my career and I can't wait to get started."
Head Coach John Ellinger said the decision to trade Ryan Johnson was a difficult one, but the value the team received in return was too much to pass up, especially with all of the recent injuries suffered by the team's back line.
"We think very highly of Ryan Johnson, and I believe that he will still be a good player in this league, but this is a move that we had to make," stated Ellinger. "Sometimes injuries force you to look around for some help, and we feel very fortunate that Jack Stewart became available to us. He was someone who interested us before the injuries hit; we are very excited to add him to our roster at this point. He is exactly what we need right now; a strong defender with great size who is good in the air and possesses the ability to play both central defense and out wide on the wings," Ellinger continued. "He is a former first-round pick (10th overall) out of Notre Dame, where he was All-Big East three times under head coach Bobby Clarke. I know Coach Clarke well, and he speaks very highly of Jack. Any back defender who learns the game under Bobby has an upper hand on most players. Also very important to us is the fact that Jack is only 23 years old, so we are able to remain consistent with our goal of cultivating young talent."
Ryan Johnson has made seven appearances for the Real Salt Lake senior squad, starting one game and logging 154 minutes in the process. He also made his debut with the Jamaican Men's National Team playing 70 minutes in a 1-1 tie against the USMNT on April 11, 2006 at SAS Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. He has been one of the major cogs for the RSL reserves this season, logging three goals and two assist in four games. The Real Salt Lake reserves currently sit in first place in the MLS reserve division with a record of 3-0-1 (10 pts).
TRANSACTION: RSL Receives DF Jack Stewart from Chicago Fire in Exchange for FW Ryan Johnson.