Real Salt Lake trades first-round draft pick to Chicago for allocation cash
(Al Hartmann | Tribune file photo) Real Salt Lake team owner Dell Loy Hansen, new head coach Mike Petke, and General Manager Craig Waibel at news conference Wednesday March 29 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Real Salt Lake left the first two rounds of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft in Philadelphia Friday with $85,000 in general allocation money and Creighton forward Ricky Lopez-Espin.
RSL, which has relied on its academy to produce young talent, freed up cash for future negotiations by trading the No. 10 overall pick to the Chicago Fire for $85,000 in GAM.
“We feel that we got our No. 1 and No. 2 pick already,” RSL coach Mike Petke said in a team release. “Aaron Herrera is a top-three pick in this draft this year, and Corey Baird is a first-round draft pick, and we got them as Homegrowns. We were looking for one or two players that if they fell through to our position, we would have taken, and they were drafted already.”
Real Salt Lake kept its second-round pick, selecting Lopez-Espin No. 33 overall. The 2017 Big East co-offensive player of the year finished his senior season with 12 goals, topping a junior year in which he scored 10. That success came after a season-ending knee injury his freshman year that interrupted a season in which he still managed to net seven goals in 11 matches.
Lopez-Espin is the second former Creighton player drafted by RSL in three years. RSL goalkeeper Connor Sparrow was selected in the fourth round of the 2016 MLS SuperDraft and played for the Real Monarchs for two seasons before signing with the first team in September. Lopez-Espin talked to Sparrow ahead of the draft, he told The Salt Lake Tribune, and Sparrow gave him the advice to work hard, respect everyone around him and respect himself.
“You look up to someone like that,” Lopez-Espin said about Sparrow. “... I see him as an example.”
RSL signed two homegrown players, Herrera and Baird, out of college this winter, bypassing the draft.
Herrera, who has started for New Mexico since his freshman year, had a breakout junior season in 2017, leading the team with five goals and five assists. He also was called in to the U-20 U.S. national team for the World Cup last year. Baird, who was named to the All Pac-12 first team the last two seasons, won three straight national championships with Stanford.
The final two rounds of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft will take place over a conference call Sunday. RSL holds the No. 51, 56 and 79 overall picks.