RSL dumps Kovalenko, drafts scorersBy Kali Korbis • Jan 16th, 2009 • Category: Features
After trading Dema Kovalenko to the L.A. Galaxy, Real Salt Lake got to work making the most of its three picks in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft, adding a trio of goal scorers it hopes can contribute in the first full season at Rio Tinto Stadium.
While the draft as a whole was relatively uneventful compared to years past, RSL made a somewhat surprising first-round choice, selecting midfielder Jean Alexandre with the 12th overall pick. Alexandre, who scored 34 goals during four seasons at Lynn University, was not widely projected to be drafted in the first round. However, RSL officials had been following the Haitian native’s progress for the past year and opted to use its only first-round pick on him, noting Alexandre’s ability to play several positions.
General Manager Garth Lagerwey said of Alexandre, “The staff felt that Jean was one of the best athletes at the [adidas MLS Player] Combine. With us moving to a fast and wide field at Rio Tinto Stadium, we feel the need to bring in athletic and versatile players, and selecting Jean helps us accomplish those goals.”
Perhaps the bigger news came the night before the draft, when RSL sent veteran midfielder Dema Kovalenko to the Galaxy for allocation money and a conditional 2011 draft pick. Kovalenko spent only one season in Utah after coming over from New York last February, but was seen as an integral part of the team’s success last yar.
RSL did not have another pick until the fourth round of the draft, when the staff selected midfielder Raphael Cox with the 54th overall selection and striker Futhi Bhembe with the 57th. Cox scored 14 goals and earned two All-Pac 10 nominations at the University of Washington, impressing RSL with his ability to play on the left side of midfield. Meanwhile, Bhembe, a native of Swaziland, was the fifth leading goal scorer in NCAA Division I competition during his senior season at Alabama A&M.
RSL’s defense improved considerably in 2008; however, consistent goal-scoring proved more difficult. Although Lagerwey and coach Jason Kreis acknowledged prior to the draft that finding a ready-made solution in the SuperDraft was unlikely, they will be looking to the new acquisitions to add roster depth in key attacking roles.