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Man of the match: Fito Ovalle plays beyond his years in defensive midfield spot

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

For an 18-year-old player to continually impress is one thing — for them to do so under increasingly difficult circumstances is another. Fito Ovalle was a strong, involved figure through Real Salt Lake's 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City.

His passing, especially for the first 60 minutes when he was playing against Kansas City's B-team, was crisp and smart. His defending was proactive and intelligent. Playing at the base of the midfield in the Kyle Beckerman role, it's easy to get caught up trying to mark attacking players — Ovalle didn't let himself get sucked into that box-to-box role some try.

No, instead, Ovalle showed a lot more intelligence than that. He may not be muscle-bound, and as his career progresses, he'll want to be a little stronger. But that's not really an issue to worry about now, because the focus — especially for young players — should be on playing intelligently rather than physically.

When Sporting KC brought on their first-team players in the second half, Ovalle kept doing what he was doing, and although there was less space to operate, he didn't seem overwhelmed. If he ends up on Real Salt Lake's first team and not on Real Monarchs, he might not see much time — but once he can get it consistently, he'll make the most of it.

Ovalle gets my man of the match pick because he played as well as you'd hope for someone of his stature — he took a difficult position and not just excelled, but he imbued it with his personal style of play.

Honorable mentions

Devon Sandoval was active in attack and in defending from the front, and his hold-up play was excellent. His goal, too, was sublime.

Emery Welshman had a fantastic finish and nearly got in a fight, but between those moments, he was going forward and getting back constantly.