2023 MLS Draft Grades: Real Salt Lake

Portland Timbers v Real Salt Lake. Chris Gardner/GettyImages
Portland Timbers v Real Salt Lake. Chris Gardner/GettyImages / Chris Gardner/GettyImages
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Round 1: Pick 16=F Bertin Jacquesson (Pittsburgh/Generation Adidas)

With their natural selection of the first round, RSL selected winger Bertin Jacquesson out of Pitt (whom Jacquesson helped lead all the way to the semifinals of the NCAA tournament). Jacquesson was a second team All-ACC selection this year after an eight goal, five assist season. For his Pitt Panther career, he totalled 19 goals and 23 assists (across 57 matches) making him one of the more productive wingers in the class.

Jacquesson is also a year younger than most of the prospects due to only spending three years in college as a GA signing. While Jacquesson has the likes of Jefferson Savarino entrenched in front of him at winger, I could definitely see him competing for minutes as a reserve. It wouldn't surprise me if at the end of the year, he ends up with 300-400 minutes played.

MLSSoccer's Travis Clark had Jacquesson ranked as the #4 winger in the class.

  • Pick Grade: B

Round 1: Pick 25=F Emeka Eneli (Cornell) (trade with MTL)

The first move of draft day for RSL was trading homegrown fullback Aaron Herrera to Montreal on Wednesday morning. In that move, RSL acquired pick #25 in that evening's SuperDraft. The other assets that RSL acquired were: $500k in GAM ($350k in 2023, $150k in 2024) and a 2023 International Roster Spot. With the first round selection, RSL picked Emeka Eneli out of Cornell.

Herrera, 25 years old, has been one of the more successful HG signees for RSL. He has accumulated 19 assists across 124 appearances dating back to 2018. His best year came in 2021 when he had a whopping 11 assists (and completed 81.2% of his passes), but he regressed this past season back down to the assists.

Nevertheless, moving on from Herrera is an interesting move, as is the return. Since so many different assets were acquired in the trade, it is tough to gauge an exact value on the return. All in all, I believe it was a decent return, but a lot of how this trade will be remembered will be based on what RSL does with the assets (such as, how Eneli – and to an extent Paul – turns out).

Now to Eneli, who led Cornell to the third round of the NCAA tournament behind a four goal, seven assist season. Eneli's best season stat-wise was in 2021 when he put up seven goals (and again registered seven assists). Over his career, he scored 20 goals to go along with 17 assists in 60 matches. Eneli was also a second team United Soccer Coaches All-America selection this season, and will likely battle for minutes as a reserve winger this year. I could also see him spending some time with Real Monarchs this year.

Another way that you can look at the move as a whole is that RSL used $175k of the GAM they got for Herrera in order to get pick #7 (to pick Paul). So, another way to look at this trade is that RSL acquired: $325k in GAM ($175k in 2023 GAM, $150k in 2024 GAM), Ilijah Paul, Emeka Eneli, and a 2023 International Roster Spot (and an unknown sell-on fee for Herrera that RSL retains) for Aaron Herrera.

  • Pick/Trade Grade: B-