Real Salt Lake announced some major changes Wednesday, as the team overhauls its roster in preparation for 2006.
RSL waived goalkeeper D.J. Countess, one of the poster boys for the expansion team, and traded defender Brian Dunseth to CD Chivas USA. The team also acquired the rights to Kansas City defender Diego Walsh, as well as formally waiving Matt Behncke, Rusty Pierce, Jeff Stewart and Dante Washington.
The MLS trade freeze was lifted on Monday, the day after Los Angeles defeated New England in the MLS Cup, and RSL and Chivas USA wasted little time swapping central defenders.
Salt Lake sent California native Dunseth to Chivas USA (based in Los Angeles) in exchange for Costa Rican central defender Douglas Sequeira and 19-year-old American Christian Jimenez.
Dunseth started 24 games for RSL this year, and when healthy he was usually a steady presence at the back. Unfortunately for Dunseth, he wasn't healthy the last three months of the season, and his quickness at the back really suffered as a result.
Even though Sequeira and Dunseth are both 28, Sequeira appears to be an upgrade for Salt Lake.
Sequeira is regarded as one of the most rugged central defenders in the league, and RSL coach John Ellinger and his staff couldn't pass up the opportunity to fill one of the team's obvious needs in 2006.
In the long run, Jimenez may end up being the steal of the trade.
The California native, whose parents are from Guadalajara, Mexico, was with Ellinger when he directed the U.S. Soccer Under-17 Residency Program in Florida. Jimenez is an extremely talented midfielder who has trained with the U.S. National Team's full squad in the past, and a player who Chivas USA took in the second round of the 2005 MLS SuperDraft.
For various reasons, however, Jimenez just wasn't happy playing for Chivas, but Ellinger is confident he can revive his love for the game.
Unfortunately for Ellinger, he couldn't make things work out with Countess, another player Ellinger coached with the U.S. Under-17 team.
RSL selected Countess with the second pick in the MLS expansion draft last November, and basically handed the 23-year-old the starting goalkeeper spot. In the first two months of the season, Countess was a bright spot on the team, but things quickly soured.
Maturity and confidence issues began to arise for Countess in the summer, and it's no secret he lost the trust of many of his teammates.
"We're basically looking for more leadership and senior experience with such a young team," said Ellinger. "It might not be a popular decision for some, but it's kind of where we're headed."
Countess started 27 games for RSL, while rookie keeper Jay Nolly started five, including four of the last nine.
Despite the tremendous confidence Ellinger and assistant coach Peter Mellor have in Nolly, it's doubtful they're going to hand the reigns over to Nolly in 2006.
"We're in the process of trying to acquire an experienced goalkeeper. We have a second pick overall in the draft and allocation money, so it's not like there's a shortage of (teams) trying to move people," said Ellinger. "It's just a matter of how much they want, and if they're going to give us what we want. But we have to be careful. We only have two picks in the draft."
As RSL tries to fill its needs at keeper, forward and holding midfielder, another trade is a good possibility in the offseason.
Real could've added more players to its roster on Wednesday, but like the other 11 teams in MLS, it declined to select any of the 49 players who were available in Wednesday's waiver draft.
To acquire Walsh's rights from Kansas City, which released the defender earlier this year, Salt Lake traded the Wizards a third-round 2005 supplemental draft pick. Walsh is a native of Brazil and will occupy one of RSL's four senior roster spots.
After the flurry of activity, Salt Lake now has 26 of maximum 28 players on its roster.
With the likelihood of more trades, allocation possibilities, and the upcoming MLS SuperDraft and Supplemental draft, Salt Lake's roster is sure to undergo more face-lifts as the team tries to improve upon its 5-22-5 record last year.