Well a lot of attention this week for Real Salt Lake has been about the Cruz Azul match, and it was very worthy of the hype as RSL really were the first team from MLS to head to Mexico and force a Mexican team to react to what they did instead of playing bunker ball and hoping for the best. Sure you can point to the 5-4 loss as disappointing, because it was, sure you can blame the officials for taking a RSL goal away and giving Cruz Azul one they didn't deserve, because it happened, but in the end it was an entertaining, heart pounding, and educational match for Real Salt Lake and its fans.
The shame is that perhaps one of the biggest RSL stories of the year has been tossed to the sides because of the midweek match. For years there has been talk about Real Salt Lake opening up a full blown academy and while many of us thought it would be here in Salt Lake City, it is clear that the local politics had killed that idea long ago. Heck the local political scene won't even allow the city to spend the millions of dollars donated to them by RSL for a mixed use sports facility. So on Wednesday it was announced that RSL had opened a full blown academy with a residency program too boot, it should have made big news. Instead just one little article about it appeared on examiner.com
On August 1, 20 U-16 and U-18 players from Utah, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and New York arrived to reside at the well-appointed Grande Sports World Complex in Arizona in a program comparable to European club academies
more after the jump:
Yes this is the same Grande Sports World Complex that RSL used for a portion of the pre-season training this year, and will offer RSL a huge advantage in MLS as other teams will no be playing catchup. RSL has had several summer camps at the facility starting in 2007 and those programs:
Highlights of RSL Arizona's summer program include a 2008 US Club Soccer National Championship, the 2008 SUM Cup Championship (U17 Championship between all MLS Youth Academies) that awarded the team a trip to Madrid, Spain to play in the 2009 World Club Championships. At the 2009 World Club Championships, the team finished a very respectable 1-1-1 with matches against the likes of Athletico Madrid (Spain) and Partizan Belgrade (Serbia). Additionally, Real Salt Lake has tagged (identified and maintain MLS rights to) 4 future first team prospects from this summer program. Real Salt Lake is commited to working with current club directors to help create greater opportunities for players and bring a consistent professional influence to the Arizona soccer community.
have been hugely successful over the last couple years. This year RSL lost the SUM Cup final in Houston to DC United after several rounds of PK's.
Greg Vanney, former LA Galaxy and USMNT player, will be in charge of the RSL residency program, when he was asked "How much of a landmark is this residential academy?" he replied:
It's creating a new landscape. The people at US Soccer have very close eyes on what we're doing, how we're doing things. We have a little bit of a blank slate. We're going to be measured by - "can we develop players?" That's really where soccer needs to go in this country because we're so oversold that winning is the most important thing and it hurts us as a country when it comes to developing players. RSL were willing to lose games last year to reach their ultimate goal which is develop their team and play the best soccer they could play at the right time.
You can read the rest of the examiner's interview with Greg here, I highly suggest doing so as it offers some great insight to what RSL is doing to build the organization into truly a world class soccer organization. Too often things are done that fans simply don't know about or don't see immediate returns on and this falls into that category, but once again our team is making MLS history.
You can check out some pictures that went along with the examiner.com article on the new academy here. I also suggest checking out an blog post that Drew at WVHolligan.com did on the topic of the residency academies coming to MLS.
I have submitted some questions to the RSL front office about the new academy but with their busy schedule this week of matches and travel, I haven't heard back from them yet. As soon as I do, you can expect and update on this topic that I think is an incredible step forward for RSL.
OFF MY SOAPBOX