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Reserves draw features strong academy ties, defensive midfielder considerations

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Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake's reserves drew 1-1 with Chivas USA in the MLS Reserve League opener, with some of the more impressive performances for the day coming from Arizona-based academy prospects.

Fito Ovalle, a central midfielder and full back who played in the Generation Adidas Cup with the U-17s, played 90 minutes — the first half in the midfield, the second half at right back. He looked most impressive in the midfield, and he looked gassed toward the end of the 90 minutes. It was a strong performance overall, and one to be proud of for the Utah native. He may have given away a Chivas penalty, but it seemed soft at best.

Jose Hernandez, Sebastian Saucedo, and Corey Baird, each involved with the Arizona academy, all played in the second half. The diminutive Hernandez — as tall as the corner flag — was particularly impressive, combining at the top of the diamond ably and not ducking out of challenges with much larger players.

At one point, six players with academy ties — the four there currently, Lalo Fernandez, and Carlos Salcedo — were involved in the second half. It sure makes the future look bright and exciting.

John Stertzer started the match at the base of the diamond, but moved to the side in the second half. Carlos Salcedo spent the second half in the position; Jeff Cassar has mentioned Salcedo as an option for Kyle Beckerman's spot when he departs for the World Cup. Given that Cole Grossman is listed as out with shin splints, the need for a genuine backup to Beckerman has become pressing.

Stertzer and Salcedo each showed a little more than half of Beckerman's game — Stertzer stood out for his combinatory qualities, while Salcedo stood out in challenges. It brings to mind how valuable Beckerman is to this side.

Kwame Watson-Siriboe made his long-awaited return from injury, playing in the second half and being a generally effective contributor there. He and Aaron Maund seemed to defend well together.