Already, it has been uncanny how much like his departing teammate Robbie Findley has been performing for Real Salt Lake this season -- leading the team in scoring, firing home the goals that pushed the team into the playoffs on the last day of its regular season, and striking for the dramatic late winner in its first playoff game.
Just like Yura Movsisyan, last year.
But the similarities don't end there, as RSL heads into the second leg of its two-game Major League Soccer playoff series against the defending champion Columbus Crew at Crew Stadium on Thursday night. And they figure to make for some fascinating offseason machinations that could result in the team losing another of its best players just as he's hitting his prime.
"We'll see what happens," Findley said.
Why such intrigue?
Movsisyan and Findley have the same agent, Patrick McCabe, who wanted RSL to offer Movsisyan a contract extension soon after his late-season heroics last season. When the team did not act fast enough for them, McCabe and Movsisyan entertained offers from overseas, turning down a later offer from RSL, and eventually signed a deal with Randers FC in Denmark.
The midseason signing caused no small amount of turbulence within RSL, especially when general manager Garth Lagerwey resisted what he described as a low-ball buyout offer and insisted on keeping Movsisyan until his contract expires at the end of the season.
McCabe and Lagerwey wound up bickering in the media, straining their relationship, and Movsisyan opened himself to questions about his dedication to RSL -- which must try to replace him once he leaves at the end of the season. Movsisyan scored eight goals with two assists this season, after getting seven and one last year.
Now, enter Findley.
Like Movsisyan, the 24-year-old forward will be heading into the final year of his contract with RSL after the best season of his career. McCabe has hinted that he will seek a contract extension for Findley during the offseason, though he said in an e-mail this week that he doesn't want to make it an issue while the playoffs are still in progress.
"But it certainly will be something that needs to be addressed Asap," he said.
McCabe said he already has received interest in Findley from teams in Europe, and Findley in the past has said he would like to play overseas at some point.
But RSL could try to pre-empt any such move by trying to sign him quickly to an extension. If that doesn't happen, international rules would allow Findley to sign a "pre-contract" with another team -- just as Movsisyan did -- once his current deal is within six months of expiring. For his part, Lagerwey declined to speculate on how it all will turn out, or whether his relationship with McCabe will color any negotiations.
"We'll deal with contracts after the season," he said.
In any case, Findley can be sure his value has never been higher.
The Arizona native made his first appearance with the U.S. national team over the summer, and scored a dozen goals during the regular season for RSL -- including two in the 3-0 victory over Colorado in the regular-season finale that helped push the team into the playoffs.
Findley also scored the game-winner (off a pass from Movsisyan) in the 88th minute against the Crew last weekend, giving RSL a one-goal cushion heading into the second leg of the two-game series that will be decided by total goals. His stock will only rise if he continues to play well during the playoffs, and perhaps help RSL made a run to the MLS Cup championship game.
"Depending on the team's success, it helps me even more," he acknowledged. "We'll see what happens."
Michael C. Lewis » Coach Jason Kreis acknowledged being surprised by the way the Columbus Crew gambled against his Real Salt Lake team in the first leg of their playoff series, by leaving two of its best players on the bench.
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RSL's Robbie Findley has enjoyed the best season of his pro career:
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