Real Salt Lake, seeking to find space under the MLS salary cap, sent defender Robbie Russell to D.C. United on Tuesday in exchange for a third-round selection in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft.
Russell, who completed the final contract season of his yearly $128,250 salary, started 68 of his 78 regular-season appearances for RSL with a goal and nine assists. Russell played in 12 of the 13 MLS playoff games in RSL's franchise history, and in 10 of the team's 12 CONCACAF Champions League contests in the 2010-11 competition, including five of the six championship-phase matches this past spring.
"Firstly, I want to give a huge thank you to all the players, organization and fans that have been so amazing to me over the last three-and-a-half years," Russell said through RSL. "I would have loved to finish off my career with Real Salt Lake, and Rio Tinto Stadium and the Salt Lake area will always hold a special place in my heart, but it wasn't in the cards. It's a bittersweet departure, but sometimes you come to a point in your career where there is a better situation for your family, and this is indeed one of those times."
Russell's clinching penalty kick gave Real a 5-4 penalty-kick victory against the Los Angeles Galaxy and their first MLS Cup title back on Oct. 22, 2009, at then-Qwest Field in Seattle. Russell, a veteran of European soccer, was signed by Real Salt Lake in 2008.
"We cannot thank Robbie enough for his contributions to Real Salt Lake during the last four seasons," RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey said. "Robbie ... helped change our team and locker room into one that embraced a winning culture and consistently competed for championships.
"Robbie's conversion of that penalty kick in the 2009 MLS Cup not only gave our club its only title, but more than any other moment symbolized our ascension into the ranks of contenders."
Under its $2.81 million cap, RSL is attempting to re-sign forward Fabian Espindola. Ned Grabavoy and Andy Williams are also out of contract.
"Moving a key veteran on from RSL is never an easy decision to make,"Lagerwey said. "But the salary budget restrictions are cruel and it was going to be nearly impossible to keep Robbie heading into next season."