Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By JOSE M. ROMEROï»¿
You can hear it in Arturo Alvarez’s voice: Coming to Real Salt Lake is a good thing for his soccer career.
Who can blame the veteran forward-midfielder? He’s joined one of the deepest, most talented rosters in MLS after being chosen by Portland in last November’s expansion draft, then being shipped to Real Salt Lake in exchange for a 2011 MLS Draft pick.
“I would say that being in San Jose and coming here (to RSL), it’s a little bit of a different style,” Alvarez said during the club’s first leg of preseason training in Casa Grande, Ariz., recently. “I think it’s going to suit me better.”
The difference is found in the way RSL plays possession soccer with its strong midfield and depth of quality forwards that like to go right at opponents. Alvarez, with 24 career MLS goals in eight seasons, fits the mold as an offensive-minded player who can be used at either outside midfielder or second forward, which was how RSL deployed him in its first preseason game last week.
Alvarez made an immediate impact. Despite playing only half of the 135 minutes (three 45-minute stanzas), he scored RSL’s first goal of 2011.
After two stints in San Jose, Alvarez experienced a tumultuous expansion draft day before a soft landing in Utah when it was all said and done.
“I think I got the better end of the deal. I’m just happy to be here,” he said. “When I saw that my name came up in the expansion draft getting picked up by Portland, I was just going to head there and keep working hard. I’d never been to Portland before… I know they have a good fan base and I hope everything works out for them.”
RSL coach Jason Kreis and the club’s decision-makers targeted Alvarez after the individual teams’ lists of protected players were made known. Alvarez had been on RSL’s radar since 2007, when it first tried to obtain him.
“A player that we’d been watching, and a player that has punished us on several occasions,” Kreis said. “When he was available in that expansion draft we were talking about what we may have to give up and had some conversations about some pretty big pieces to acquire him. And to end up only having to give a second-round draft pick, we considered ourselves extremely fortunate.”
Defender Nat Borchers said the team’s acquisition of Alvarez is key for depth.
“I think that he can fill in a lot of holes for us when we have guys who are injured or when we have guys that leave the team for various reasons,” Borchers said. “It’s going to be fantastic to have him in the lineup.”