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Boyd Okwuonu offers much to RSL's possession-oriented approach

Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Boyd Okwuonu's career has been a promising one, as evidenced by his appearances for United States youth sides - the U-17s and U-20s have both been home to the UNC graduate who joined Real Salt Lake through the 2015 SuperDraft.

Okwuonu, 21, played center back for North Carolina, but it was his time with the national team that is more meaningful for Real Salt Lake as they prepare for the 2015 season. At a national level, he's played comfortably as a right back, and he says it's his preference as well as the club's.

"I'm comfortable with both. Here, I'm definitely going to play right back," he said in an interview on Saturday. "That's where I like to play."

Part of his ability to effectively play as a right back comes down to his superb passing rates, which saw him top accuracy rankings from across the ACC.

"It's definitely something I focus on, taking care of the ball," Okwuonu said. "Growing up, that's something I was taught, to keep the ball. I definitely focus on that for sure, and I like to keep it simple."

While he may not have been excited to fall as low in the draft as he did, being picked up by Real Salt Lake probably made up for any disappointment. Okwuonu spoke with the club during the MLS combine, and he was impressed by what he experienced.

"I got a really good vibe from them and everything," he said. "They're confident in me, and I'm confident in them. I was very, very excited when I was elected by them."

In a press conference a week ago, RSL coach Jeff Cassar said that despite Okwuonu's relative inexperience, the quality of his experience helps to solve any concerns.

"This is a young player that's played with the national team and has a lot of experience that some of the other college kids don't," he said. "It's a position we needed to fill, which is a right back - somebody who can help Tony (Beltran) out."

As for being behind Tony Beltran, Okwuonu recognized an opportunity to learn.

"The players in front of me, like Tony Beltran, or literally anybody in the back line - I just want to learn from them and perfect my craft as much as possible," he said.