Sebastian Velasquez is an interesting player, and not just because his oscillating hairstyles delight and disgust in equal measure.
As a sophomore in Real Salt Lake's system, Velasquez has grown into a more reliable system player, even if his playing time has been spotty. With 19 games under his belt and nine starts, he's more than doubled his 2012 minutes but remains under 1,000. There's a sense that his potential is vast, but it simply hasn't translated into reality. He's good on the ball - very good at times - but his ball skills don't always translate into dangerous attacking play.
His starts have been infrequent since the start of the season, and since May, he's picked up only four starts - less than half after the first two months of the season. But at no point did Velasquez seem to dip significantly as a player - it was more that a group of injured players returned to fitness, and that ruled him out for significant minutes.
Whether this season is a success for the still-young Velasquez depends on his performance tonight, if he's given the chance. Every indication seems to be that he will be given just that, especially with Ned Grabavoy out of contention with a hamstring strain. But being afforded opportunities is one thing; capitalizing is another. To date, Velasquez has yet to score a goal for Real Salt Lake in competitive play, but he's appeared a dangerous figure frequently. The key, then, is to revise that to not only appear a dangerous figure, but to genuinely be one, and to make the most of the time available. Maybe Sebastian Velasquez hasn't done that.
But one thing he has done is instill confidence in the coaching staff that he's not going to be fazed by the big games, and that he's got the potential to be a game-changing player. His substitutions into difficult matches presumes he is capable of impact. That he came into Sunday's match against LA Galaxy and made a difference in approach and style speaks volumes.
His runs around the left flank, interchanging with Javier Morales — perhaps the most important figure for Velasquez to learn from on the pitch at Real Salt Lake — and his movement centrally when further up the pitch have an opportunity to disrupt the defense in significant ways. Playing alongside Luis Gil and Morales will offset some creative burden from him, which could have a freeing effect in its own way. But importantly, he'll need to have a willingness to not just take players on individually, but to take the shot when he has it. That has been his downfall in the attack at times this season.
This kid may not have made it yet, but with a positive performance tonight, he'll be one step closer to it.