Real Salt Lake had a busy draft day on Wednesday, as they made some trades and made five picks.
RSL started the draft out quickly, acquiring the #7 pick in the draft, having already made a trade earlier in the day (which moved Aaron Herrera) in which one of the assets the team acquired was pick #25.
The club did this while keeping all three of their natural selections that they went into the draft with. Now, let's break down each pick, the trades, and hand out some grades.
Round 1: Pick 7=F Ilijah Paul (Washington/Generation Adidas) (trade with ATL)
RSL started the evening out by trading $175k in 2023 GAM to Atlanta United for pick #7 (and did so while not giving up a pick, RSL essentially just bought the pick). They then nabbed one of the most exciting players in the draft, Ilijah Paul out of Washington. Paul is also a Generation Adidas signing, which allows a lot of cap flexibility.
Paul was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year this year (and was a first team United Soccer Coaches All-American) as he scored 11 goals (and contributed four assists) while helping lead the Huskies to a 15-2-3 record and an appearance in the NCAA tournament as the #2 national seed (even though they were upset in the second round).
In terms of an immediate impact, with questions surrounding Sergio Cordova's future at the club, Paul could have an early opportunity. Even if it is as a reserve #9, I definitely see Paul getting first team minutes this season. And depending on how things go, Paul could have a sizeable role this year. Even if Cordova is retained or another 9 is brought in, I could see Paul being utilized this year as a guy who comes in in the final 15-30 minutes of a match and just attacks the tired legs of defenders.
While there might be some questions about Paul being just a one-year starter at Washington, it's hard to overlook what he showed this season. He's one of the faster players in the draft (and he just keeps on running and running with that speed). He has some positional flexibility, but if I were RSL I would try to play him at the 9 (and then move to winger later on if need be).
I really liked this aggressive trade from RSL, the value they got in it, and then the pick of Paul (who could have easily gone in the top five in my opinion). Paul is also only 20 (due to being a GA signing), which is a plus.
MLSSoccer's Travis Clark had Paul ranked as the #2 forward in the class.
- Pick/Trade Grade: A