RSL Trades Jeff Cunningham to Toronto

RSL Trades Jeff Cunningham to Toronto

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SALT LAKE CITY - Real Salt Lake acquired striker Alecko Eskandarian and a first-round 2008 MLS SuperDraft selections, in exchange for defending Budweiser Golden Boot holder Jeff Cunningham as part of a blockbuster trade of forwards with expansion MLS club Toronto FC.

In addition to the second-highest of Toronto's three current 2008 #1 draft picks, Real Salt Lake will receive cash considerations towards its salary budget, the details of which will not be released, per club policy. Eskandarian is expected to join RSL upon the team's return to Salt Lake City on Thursday and will not be available for the club's Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play-in contest Wednesday night at the Colorado Rapids, but hopes to be on the field Sunday, May 27, at Toyota Park in Chicago against the Fire in a match televised live nationally on Telefutura at 3:00 p.m. MT.

"I am excited to bring in a player like Alecko who knows what it takes on and off the field to win a championship," said RSL Head Coach Jason Kreis. "With his father's Cosmos experience and his role in the D.C. United tradition, we have another player - to go along with Eddie Pope, Nick Rimando, Chris Brown, Chris Klein, Carey Talley and Freddy Adu, each of whom have an intimate understanding of what it takes to build a squad that competes for championships on an annual basis."

The fiery Eskandarian joins Real Salt Lake after scoring one goal in his six appearances - all starts - for Toronto FC during the first two months of the Canadian club's inaugural season. The 24-year-old Eskandarian has tallied 21 goals and notched seven assists in his 87 appearances (53 starts) across five seasons of MLS play, the first four of which were spent in the nation's capital with D.C. United. Eskandarian has also represented the United States at the senior international level, earning his lone "cap" for the U.S. in a friendly against Wales on May 27, 2003, and scored D.C. United's goal in a 1-1 exhibition game draw with Real Madrid in Seattle on August 9, 2006, three days prior to Madrid's visit to Salt Lake.

"This move allows us to be in a position to become a deeper team, both now and in the future," continued Kreis. "We receive a truly lethal striker and fantastic competitor in Alecko, as well as a premium selection in next year's draft and some cap flexibility that gives us added options we previously did not have."

Eskandarian played a huge role in helping D.C. United to its fourth MLS Cup crown during its title run in 2004, scoring four goals and adding one assist in postseason play. Eskandarian would also garner the MLS Cup 2004 Most Valuable Player award for his two-goal performance that led the "Black-and-Red" to a 3-2 victory over the Kansas City Wizards at The Home Depot Center. Eskandarian, whose father, Andranik, was a member of the famed New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League, was selected by D.C. with the first overall pick in the 2003 MLS SuperDraft, making him the third top overall pick to land on the Real Salt Lake roster alongside Freddy Adu (2004) and Nik Besagno (2005).

"I have great respect for Jeff both as a player and as a person - you have to for a guy that has scored 93 goals in this league. But in order to make RSL a better team, we have to make moves - sometimes difficult ones - to find the combination of players that will give your team the best chance at winning in this league."

Cunningham departs Real Salt Lake after just over a year of service, but the Jamaican-born striker certainly left his mark during his short stay with RSL. In his only full season with the club in 2006, Cunningham tied his career high with 16 goals and added 11 assists, numbers that earned the 10-year MLS veteran his first career MLS Golden Boot award as the league's top scorer and a nod as one of three finalists for the 2006 MLS MVP award. The 30-year-old Cunningham leaves RSL as the team's leading scorer in goals (19) and assists (11), while also ranking second in shots (92) and shots on goal (52), numbers he reached in just 38 appearances. Since joining Major League Soccer as a member of the Columbus Crew in 1998, Cunningham has scored 93 goals - the fourth most in MLS history - and added 57 assists in 246 League matches (162 starts).

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