Robbie Findley scores a goal in training past a couple of academy kids - Garrett Cleverly, Grande Sports Academy PR
With players from Real Salt Lake's residential academy side in Arizona training with the senior team during preseason, some young players are being given valuable experience as they look to develop into professional players.
With Real Salt Lake training at Grande Sports Academy in Casa Grande, Ariz. - the home of Real Salt Lake's Arizona academy - a handful of young players are being handed a rare opportunity to train with experienced professionals.
In the development of a young player's career, it's important that they have an opportunity to learn from those who, as they say, have gone through the hoops a few times.
Jon Zabasajja, a center back who graduates in 2013 and is verbally committed to Southern Methodist University, told RSL Communications that he values the relatively rare experience of training with the senior team.
"It's very humbling training with the top guys," Zabasajja said. "They don't come down much, so it's a good experience for us academy players to see the next level, to see what it takes to get there."
Ive Burnett, a full back who is set to play at University of South Carolina after he graduates this year, told Grande Sports Academy PR that playing with the first team presents an opportunity to improve before college.
"It is helping me get better for college, playing with the older guys," he said. "Going in as a freshman, I'm hoping to start right off the bat playing against older people as well. It is requiring me to think three plays ahead, which sharpens the mind and helps me with a better touch."
Zabasajja said the playing experience with top players is humbling.
"You're playing with top players — Javier Morales, Robbie Findley, players on the national team — so it's very humbling," he said. "It's a huge step up. You go from guys your own age to guys who have been playing for 20 years. It's very different."
The primary difference between the youth side and the senior team is "quickness of play," Zabasajja said.
"You've got to play one, two-touch here," he said. "If you don't play one, two-touch, you're going to get smothered by great players."
To date, no academy graduate has made an appearance in a senior match for Real Salt Lake. With two in the squad right now - center back Carlos Salcedo and goalkeeper Lalo Fernandez - who have consistently impressed, that day when there dis a clear path from the academy to the first team gets closer and closer.