All About Alvarez - Part 1

Brian Dunseth breaks down RSL's new acquisition

Alvarez_v_RSL (620x350)

Photo Credit: 
Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

Like
99.9% of other MLS observers, when I saw that Real Salt Lake traded the no. 22
overall pick in 2011 to Portland for Arturo Alvarez, who they had drafted just
a few hours earlier in the expansion draft, my immediate thought was “Wow, what
a huge pickup for RSL!” Think for a minute about the fact that GM Garth
Lagerwey and Head Coach Jason Kreis can add a 25-year old international player
to an already strong midfield is an amazing accomplishment – on top of coming
through the expansion draft unscathed.

(SIDENOTE:
I’m very happy for David Horst, who proved in Puerto Rico last year what 90
minutes a week could do for a young player. He showed excellent growth throughout
the Islanders’ league season and in CONCACAF Champions League. No disrespect to
Horst, but the growth of rookie Chris Schuler & Rauwshan McKenzie behind
Nat Borchers & Jamison Olave mean that Portland is the best place for him.
Even more credit to RSL for allowing Horst the opportunity for the young player
to showcase himself and move on. As a player, all you want is opportunity, and
this is just another example how the current RSL regime – Garth, Jason, Jeff
Cassar, Robin Fraser, Miles Joseph (all ex-MLS players) put the athletes
first.)

Getting
back to the Alvarez deal and the expansion draft, the more everyone looks at it
they should be struck with a huge amount of shock. Going into the
Portland/Vancouver draft, I’m sure if you asked a lot of league and team
personnel, players, media, everyone, the thinking going in was that RSL would
have been picked apart because of all the depth displayed – especially in
CONCACAF Champions League - and the excellence on the roster. At the end of the
day, sending a pick to Portland that would have been the 22nd-best
college or Generation Adidas player – a pick acquired from Chivas for Carey Talley back in 2008 – for
Alvarez is simply a phenomenal trade.

Why?
Because there are not very many players in MLS - when healthy - that can do
what Arturo does. He’s a hybrid player, one who is comfortable wide on either
the right or left, but one who can also fit underneath. How many times this
season have we seen RSL playmaker Javier Morales knocked around, with Andy
Williams and Ned Grabavoy capably filling in? Now Jason Kreis has another guy
in Alvarez that he can put on either side of the midfield diamond, or he can
even fill in for Morales or Espindola when needed. This is a guy who knows ins
and outs of the league, a guy who has punished RSL historically, and now the
RSL coaches have more options to utilize a quick, talented, dynamic player who
will for the first time in his career be surrounded by so much talent, as he
now will be with Morales, Will Johnson, Kyle Beckerman, Williams and Grabavoy.

What
makes Alvarez so dangerous is that even when you know he will take the pass or
shot with his left foot, he’s the type that when he’s firing on all cylinders,
you know what is coming and that you ABSOLUTELY CAN’T STOP IT. Alvarez has a
technical ability that very few players in MLS history have had – something
familiar to Marco Etcheverry, Carlos Valderrama, Mark Chung. That’s it – that’s the list.

What
Arturo Alvarez has to do to succeed in Salt Lake is not just rely on his
natural ability but if – when – he buys in to the “Team is the Star” philosophy
that pervades the Rio Tinto Stadium locker room, he can very well re-invent
himself as a dominating force. We’ve seen it with Ned Grabavoy, when he came
over from San Jose. We saw it with Andy Williams when Jason took over. If
Alvarez invests into Jason’s required work ethic and commits to the defensive
side of ball – and if he can stay healthy – he will provide so many options in
both MLS and CONCACAF play.

Follow
Brian Dunseth on Twitter @BP_TOW or check out his soccer lifestyle hits
at TheOriginalWinger.com and BumpyPitch.com … He can also be seen on MLS
broadcasts on Fox Soccer Channel and Real Salt Lake broadcasts on KUTV 2 / MyUtah (2.2 over-the-air / Comcast 111 / Dish
12)