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Chris Kamrani
Chris Kamrani covers Real Salt Lake for the Tribune.

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New season brings new challenges for RSL

Welcome to the start of another season!

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The 2011 campaign effectively gets going with the MLS SuperDraft on Thursday — the first round will be televised on ESPN2 at 10 a.m. — where Real Salt Lake will have the No. 14 and No. 52 picks. General manager Garth Lagerwey has hinted strongly that the team will trade one or both of the picks, saying he's not sure the team wants to take on another salary by drafting a rookie who probably won't contribute right away.

But that's not all Lagerwey said, in a pre-draft conference call with reporters.

He also confirmed a four-year contract extension with midfielder Will Johnson, locking him up through the 2014 season, and said he has had "good conversations" about contract extensions with the agents for defender Nat Borchers and goalkeeper Nick Rimando — though "nothing is imminent."

Same on the search for a replacement for assistant coach Robin Fraser, who left the team to become head coach at Chivas USA. "We're going to take our time and do it right," Lagerwey said, "rather than do it quickly."

That means the team could be well into training camp before a new assistant is hired. Players are scheduled to report to Utah on Jan. 20 — except Rimando, who's in camp with the U.S. national team — before departing Jan. 23 for the first leg of their preseason camp in Arizona.

Meanwhile, Lagerwey is trying to figure out what to do with his draft picks.

He believes the talent in the draft "drops off pretty seriously" after the first three to five players, suggesting that RSL isn't going to find anybody at No. 14 who's good enough to make it worth straining the salary budget. However, various online mock drafts have RSL taking Akron's Michael Nanchoff, Penn State's Corey Hertzog, or UC Santa-Barbara's Michael Tetteh.

Paolo Cardozo of Uruguay and Victor Estupinan of Ecuador — two non-collegians in the draft — also have been mentioned as possibilities.

"If there's a player there that we absolutely love, then we'll take him and we'll figure out the cap later," Lagerwey said. "We have to weigh … Do we take another youngster and understand that that may put a veteran's job in jeopardy from a salary-cap perspective, or do we maybe look at moves that might help us keep our core together. That's kind of the philosophical issue we have to resolve."



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