As we approach the 2014 MLS SuperDraft on Thursday, I'd like to take a look back at previous editions of the event by reviewing Real Salt Lake's selections over the course of the past nine seasons. We'll chart each player individually from their pre-RSL days, time with the club, and to current station in the world.
This will be a two-part series and will be split up between the years 2005 thru 2009 and 2010 thru 2013. Additionally, look for another two-part series next week for a review of RSL's Supplemental Draft history as we ready for stage two of the draft process.
Nikolas Besagno (1st Overall)
The original RSL draft pick, 16 year old Besagno became the second youngest player to be drafted into MLS (the youngest being Freddy Adu, of course). Only managing two appearances for the US U-17 team under John Ellinger, it was enough for Ellinger to covet him two years later at the #1 spot.
Unfortunately, Besagno's career failed to pan out in Utah. He appeared in only 8 games (439 minutes total) in just over three years with RSL. The club saw fit to loan him back to his Pacific Northwest roots in June of 2008 which opened cap room to afford Jamison Olave a four-year contract. After featuring in 10 matches with the USL Seattle Sounders, Besagno drifted around the Premier Development League's Northwest Division for the next four seasons, first with the Tacoma Tide. He was a staple in the Kitsap Pumas lineup for two years, but moved to crosstown rival Washington Crossfire for 2012.
Where is he now: Being promoted to player/coach with the Crossfire for 2013, Besagno might see his fortunes turning upward as the 24 year old looks for a future in the coaching ranks.
Jamie Watson (13th Overall)
Watson was a fan favorite from day one what with his on-field performances and his off-field contributions. He was somewhat of a celebrity force in the SLC area during his three seasons with RSL. All this despite scoring only two goals and an assist in 38 matches in Utah. Watson was waived in January 2008 to make roster space for Jason Kreis' on-going renovation of the club.
After a stint with the PDL's Austin Aztex (lighting up the scoreboard 7 times in 13 games), he was picked up by FC Dallas toward the end of 2008. He never fit in Frisco, and was off to USL-2 for just shy of a season, scoring 12 goals for the Wilmington Hammerheads. Another two-year stint in Austin finally saw him arrive at USL-PRO expansion side Orlando City in 2011.
Where is he now: Still a striker to be reckoned with, Watson has scored 23 goals with Orlando in three seasons. With the announcement that Orlando will be joining MLS in 2015, the question needs to be asked -- does Jamie Watson have what it takes to get back to America's top flight?
Jay Nolly (22nd Overall)
Nolly career was unfortunately very short. It started by playing second (and sometimes third) fiddle to Scott Garlick as the former RSL GK ended his career in 2007; he saw it end literally the same way as Chicago Fire ‘keeper Sean Johnson began his in 2012. His tenure in SLC was abysmal largely due to RSL's poor first season. In five games in 2005, he garnered a 1-3-1 record with 11 goals against. 2006 was worse, allowing six goals in just two matches.
Nolly does deserve a bit of praise by the RSL faithful as he was the primary component of the trade with DC United that brought Nick Rimando to SLC.
The high point of Nolly's career came with USL-1's Vancouver Whitecaps from 2008 thru 2010. He started 14 games over that time, only recording a 2-6-6 campaign. It was enough for a 2008 USL-1 championship, and a 2010 USL-2 Goalkeeper of the Year and Best XI awards.
Coming back to MLS in 2011 with Vancouver was tough, which resulted in the move to Chicago. At the end of the season, after seeing no time and not being selected in the Re-Entry Draft, Nolly called an end to his soccer career.
Where is he now: A bit ironically, Nolly now resides right here in Salt Lake City where he works as a territory manager for a medical equipment manufacturer.
Luke Kreamalmeyer (37th Overall)
The St Louis area native's time in Salt Lake was brief, spending only the inaugural season with the club. He saw mild success in USL with Portland from 2006 thru 2007, but floated around the league for the next four seasons. Kreamalmeyer experienced the messy USL/NASL split during 2009/2010. He last plied the trade with the NASL version of the Montreal Impact in 2011.
Where is he now: Kreamalmeyer retired from playing after the 2011 season and now coaches soccer in the St Louis area.
Mehdi Ballouchy (2nd Overall)
Ballouchy was to be the #10-type creative midfielder Ellinger would use to help build his future squad. He got off to a fairly decent start in 2006, playing 32 games, and starting 26. He tallied two goals and two assists during that time. Since then, Ballouchy has only been able to match his 2,160 minutes from 2006 once -- 2,148 in 2009 with Colorado.
Seeing scant minutes after Kreis took the helm in May 2007, Ballouchy is perhaps best known by RSL fans for being the counterpart of the trade that brought in future captain Kyle Beckerman from the Rapids.
He later spent three seasons with the Red Bulls before being traded to San Jose in July of 2012. Again, limited playing time behind the likes of Shea Salinas, Rafael Baca, and Marvin Chavez resulted in him being waived at the end of this past season.
Where is he now: Selected in Stage 2 of the 2013 Re-Entry Draft, the 28 year old might have a new lease on life with the Vancouver Whitecaps as the central midfield spot is open as of yet.
Ryan Johnson (26th Overall)
Some may forget the Jamaican was originally picked by RSL in 2006. Johnson's was another brief stay in the valley, being traded to Chicago in late July of the same year. In return, RSL received defender Jack Stewart, a staple on the back line through 2007.
A short tenure in Sweden in 2007 saw Johnson return stateside only to play indoor soccer in New Jersey. The Earthquakes acquired him prior to the 2008 season where he resided until July 2011, thence being traded to Toronto.
Where is he now: As all RSL fans should know after six games against Portland in 2013, Johnson is currently a stable attacking player in Caleb Porter's Timbers side.
Chris Seitz (4th Overall)
Seitz is best known in Salt Lake for being Nick Rimando's first backup before Kyle Reynish. His three seasons with RSL allowed him seven starts, posting a 1-4-1 record with 13 goals against. His time at RSL seemed shorter than it actually was (partly because he served two loan spells in 2009), and it came to an unusual end as Peter Nowak selected him in the 2009 Expansion Draft for his Philadelphia Union team.
He started 22 matches that year as a #1 GK, only to wind up with a 5-12-6 record and 41 goals against, good for worst in the league. The controversy surrounding his starting spot in Philly was ended at the end of 2010 as he was picked by FC Dallas in the Re-Entry Draft.
Seitz took part of 2012 off to donate bone marrow for a complete stranger (winning him the MLS Humanitarian of the Year award).
Where is he now: Still residing in Dallas, Seitz may be in line for another starting gig provided FCD's 2013 first-stringer, Raul Fernandez, remains out of favor with management.
Steven Curfman (30th Overall)
The Wake Forest midfielder was selected in the 3rd round, but never had a showing for RSL. He was waived at the end of the year and joined the Carolina Railhawks of USL-1, then Wilmington Hammerheads for 2009.
Where is he now: Curfman returned to the area of his development days -- Cary, North Carolina -- to amatuer side CASL Elite of the USASA, a club for which he at first played but now serves as director of coaching.
Tony Beltran (3rd Overall)
The former UCLA fullback has thus far been the biggest success story for RSL coming out of the SuperDraft. Since 2008, Beltran has featured in 135 games, totally over 11,000 minutes, and has been capped by the US national team as of last year. There's no end in sight for his time with Salt Lake given his performances, and the sudden lack of outside backs on the squad for 2014 only aids his fortunes.
Where is he now: Does it even need to be said? Right here in the Salt Lake Valley.
David Horst (14th Overall)
I was immediately excited when I heard Horst was drafted by RSL. Reason being his connection to my hometown area of Harrisburg, PA. My small-town high school played his in numerous sports. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to play against him during our time in school.
Horst didn't feature much for Salt Lake over his three seasons with the team (only 3 appearances), but that was partly due to his loan spells with Austin in 2009 and Puerto Rico in 2010. The latter loan was crucial to his development as he made 24 appearances over the season and helped the Islanders win the Division 2 title. Horst also got some Champions League minutes under his belt that year.
A long list of knee and ankle injuries kept him out of the RSL lineup during his stay in Utah, and continued when he was chosen by expansion side Portland in the 2010 Expansion Draft. His latest injury (April 2013) required surgery which put him out until September.
Alex Nimo (17th Overall)
The Liberian-born Nimo was a fixture in the US U-17 and U-20 national teams through 2009, and featured prominently at the 2007 U-17 World Cup. At the same time, his three seasons under contract with RSL didn't allow him a single minute of MLS play despite being a Generation Adidas player.
He was loaned to USL-1 side Portland from 2009 thru 2010. Although expressing interest in sticking with the Timbers as they moved to MLS in 2011, Nimo's contract was not renewed for that season. He then signed with Estonian side Tammeka in March 2012, making 34 appearances and scoring six goals.
Where is he now: Nimo was not brought back for the 2013 season with Tammeka, and as of now he remains unattached to any club. One would think the 23 year old would still be looking to continue his career.
Brennan Tennelle (37th Overall)
A 3rd round pick (RSL's 4th of the draft), Tennelle was a teammate of Eric Avila's at UC-Santa Barbara, where he was also a teammate of 2007 Supplemental Draft pick Kyle Reynish.
Tennelle was a defensive midfielder that showed promise at the position behind stalwart Kyle Beckerman, but never featured in any first team games. He was relegated to only reserve games, and was subsequently dropped at year's end.
In 2009, he joined the PDL's Ventura County Fusion for a brief stay, but appears his playing career was not continued afterward.
Where is he now: Returning to his hometown of San Diego, it seems that Tennelle is a coach with a local club.
Jean Alexandre (12th Overall)
The Haitian international was a first round selection from Lynn University in Florida. A convert from forward to defensive midfielder for RSL, most fans will remember his first and only goal in claret and cobalt in June 2011 -- a cheeky double step-over as he rushed into the box. Ironically, he played at striker that game due to injuries to the forward corp.
Alexandre's web of connections between Florida, Utah, California, and Austin, Texas, is a near seven degrees of separation. His pre-MLS career was spent in the PDL between Palm Beach and Ventura County until he was drafted by Salt Lake in 2009. That same year he was loaned to the Aztex of USL-1 for a total of nine games, scoring 4 goals. After the 2010 season, Aztex owner Phil Rawlins moved the club to Orlando to form the Orlando City Soccer Club. RSL kept him around until the end of 2011 when he made another Californian appearance in a trade with San Jose. He played only two games for the Quakes, none of which were starts.
The rotation of defensive mids between RSL and Orlando City came full circle in 2013 as Alexandre joined the Lions, the previous home of another Salt Lake backup d-mid, Yordany Alvarez... and reunited with his former coach in Austin, Adrian Heath. Orlando won the USL-PRO championship in 2013.
Where is he now: Alexandre was not renewed for 2014, and is currently signed with Malaysian Premier League team Negeri Sembilan.
Raphael Cox (54th Overall)
Cox was a late 4th round selection in 2009. A native of Tacoma, Washington, he served for the Colorado Rapids U-23 team in 2007 before joining hometown PDL club Tacoma Tide. Cox spent only a single season in SLC, making six appearances (two starts) and netting one goal. He was waived in mid-March of 2010, a mere 12 days before the start of the MLS season.
After spending another season with Tacoma, he was picked up by NASL's Atlanta Silverbacks, remaining there until August 2012. Tampa Bay Rowdies signed him the day he was released, and Cox went on to contribute to the team's NASL championship that season along with current RSL GK, Jeff Attinella.
Where is he now: Raphael Cox played through 2013 with the Rowdies, and, although not yet confirmed for the 2014 roster, all signs point to him returning to the Tampa lineup this year.
Mfana Futhi Bhembe (57th Overall)
Bhembe was older than most for the 2009 draft at 26 years old. The attacking midfielder played for his hometown club in Mbabane, Swaziland prior to his years at Alabama A&M. It was the shortest of stays at RSL, lasting only a month as he was cut in February of ‘09. He returned to Mbabane to spend another season with the Swallows before moving to South Africa first division club Jomo Cosmos. Bhembe saw only eight matches between 2009 and 2011.
Where is he now: Bhembe has not been connected to a club since 2011, and all indications say he is currently unemployed. At 31 years old, it might be safe to say his playing career has ended.