SANDY, Utah (ABC 4 Sports) - There are 530 players in Major League Soccer. Only one of them is from Utah, and he was just traded to his hometown team, Real Salt Lake.
Justin Braun was acquired this past week in a trade with the Montreal Impact, and Braun couldn't be happier to be back home.
"We had season tickets to Real Salt Lake," Braun said after his first practice with the team. "I remember sitting up in the stands five years ago when I was just a fan watching, thinking how cool it would be to be in the league, let alone step on the field for the hometown team. It's an honor to put on the jersey."
The only people happier than Braun, who starred at Skyline High and Salt Lake Community College, were his parents.
"They were ecstatic," said Braun. "My dad started tearing up on the phone. I could hear him choking up. They're my biggest fans, so they're happy to have me back and spend some time with me."
Braun played his first four seasons in the league with Chivas USA, where he became known as a prolific goal-scorer. Braun scored 24 goals in four seasons with Chivas, before signing with Montreal during the off-season. Needless to say, RSL is happy they don't have to play against him anymore.
"I felt like he always should have been on our team," said midfielder Kyle Beckerman. "He's been battling, scoring goals and been a pain in our necks for years, so it's really great to finally have him on our side."
"He's a big forward," said head coach Jason Kreis about the 6-foot-3 Braun. "He battles up there, works extremely hard and is a fast player. He has qualities that we really like."
Braun gives RSL another attacking forward to go along with Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola. How fast he can work his way into the lineup remains to be seen. But Braun is familiar with Kreis' system, having played under former RSL assistant coach Robin Frazer with Chivas USA.
"It's a winning mentality here," Braun said. "This is one of the top clubs, if not the top club in MLS. I think any player in this league would want to play here."
As the only player in MLS from Utah, Braun wants to spread the message to young kids around the state that you can make it to the top no matter where you come from.
"I definitely want kids to know they can do that," he said. "If you keep working hard, your dreams will come true. That's something that I did. I never gave up on the goal to get where I'm at, and now I'm here."
Braun hopes to make his RSL debut Saturday night at San Jose. The game starts at 8:30 p.m. on ABC4.