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Real Salt Lake preps for title defense
by Ridge Mahoney, December 15th, 2009 7:01AM
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[MLS] Real Salt Lake has been real busy in the offseason. In the days after beating Los Angeles in Seattle to win MLS Cup 2009, RSL unloaded backup goalkeeper Chris Seitz, used the waiver draft to obtain a possible replacement for striker Yura Movsisyan, and added forward Fabian Espindola to a list of starters signed to long-term deals.

Seitz, picked in the 2007 SuperDraft as the third overall selection, went to expansion Philadelphia in exchange for a good chunk of allocation money, said by sources to be approximately $250,000. In his three seasons he played just seven regular-season matches and his development has been stalled by the good form of veteran Nick Rimando.

General manager Garth Lagerwey and head coach Jason Kreis have been scouting college talent to find a new backup for Rimando next month at the MLS SuperDraft. RSL has the last pick in each of the first three rounds.

To fill the hole left by Movsisyan's move to Danish club Randers, RSL claimed forward Abe Thompson on waivers from Houston, and negotiated a deal by which it retains the rights to Espindola through 2013.

Thompson started his career in Dallas and spent the last two seasons in Kansas City and Houston. He's scored 15 goals and contributed 12 assists in 89 games.

In three MLS seasons, Espindola has impressed fans and teammates with his touch and poise, and perplexed team management by injuring himself while celebrating a goal. He came to RSL along with playmaker Javier Morales in August of 2007, played most of the 2008 season before moving on to Venezuelan club Deportivo Anzoátegui, then came back to RSL last May to play 22 regular-season games and all four playoff matches.

In 46 regular-season games (33 starts) he's scored 10 goals and five assists. He joins Morales, and defenders Chris Wingert and Jamison Olave as players signed to four-year contracts.

"The way this league is set up, a lot of players move around," said Wingert, who settled in at left back at RSL after playing both in midfield and in the back for Columbus and Colorado prior to arriving in Salt Lake City in 2007. "But this team has done a good job of getting players it wants to keep, and though to be honest, I prefer to play in midfield, Jason sort of gave me this position to make my own and in fact, challenged me.

"I appreciated that opportunity and it's obviously worked out pretty good for me and the team."

Espíndola, Morales and Olave underwent knee surgeries after RSL's victory in MLS Cup and are expected to recover in time for the start of preseason training in February. Morales needed surgery to repair a torn meniscus and strained lateral cruciate ligament in his left knee after being fouled by David Beckham and substituted in the championship game. Olave and Espindola needed surgeries to clean up debris and repair minor injuries incurred during the season.

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