SANDY, Utah – Midfielder Collen Warner was tipped by many to be the break-out player of 2011 for Real Salt Lake. After an up-and-down year, if Warner’s to break out, it will be with the Montreal Impact, who took the third-year player in Wednesday’s Expansion Draft.
“It’s a bummer to lose Collen,” RSL GM Garth Lagerwey told media on a conference call, “and I think Montreal is getting a really good player.”
Losing a player without getting anything in return is the nature of the expansion draft.
“You always lose a good player,” Lagerwey explained. “Look, you are losing a first round draft pick and that’s not a good thing, but it is what it is. It’s the system we live in.”
The other potential prospect for selection by Montreal was veteran midfielder Ned Grabavoy. For Lagerwey, it’s difficult to evaluate which loss would have had a greater impact.
“You can argue this any way,” he said. “You lose Collen and the negative is you don’t get any cap space. You lose Ned and the negative is you lose a player who has contributed more for us over the past two years. You lose Collen, you lose all of the potential and upside. You lose Ned and you lose all of the veteran leadership and experience. You can look at it anyway that you want. I am steadfast in my belief that there is never a good outcome in an expansion draft.”
Warner is a player that just completed his second season, seeing time in 24 matches. However, in his first real chance to make his mark he failed to grab a hold of the playmaker role and make it his own early in the season when RSL was desperately searching for a replacement for the injured Javier Morales. Despite that, he did show his skill in flashes, and registered five assists in 2011.
As the season progressed, youngster Luis Gil really came into his own, often getting some of the minutes that would have otherwise gone Warner’s way. Lagerwey expects that the loss of Warner will continue to open up time for Gil.
“Certainly it’s good to have young, talented players. Having Luis in that role, with fewer players in front of him, he’s going to get more minutes. Hopefully he’ll earn those and take advantage of that opportunity."
Warner checked in with RSL Communications after his selection, and passed along these thoughts.
“There are veteran guys on RSL that taught me how to be a pro; thanks to all of my teammates for their help the last two seasons,” said Warner. “I also want to thank the coaches, trainers for their time and effort and recognize the great RSL fans for their support. I learned a lot in my two seasons here and really enjoyed my time with RSL. It’s sad having to go, but I’m definitely excited."