It’s hard to think of a rookie in MLS this year who had a year so fraught with highs and lows as Omar Holness, and thankfully, we can sit here talking about how he made the pitch for Real Salt Lake nine times.
That’s not an amazing count for an MLS rookie, but for Generation Adidas midfielder Holness, it may have come as a bit of a surprise.
After all, in a match for Real Monarchs on March 29, Holness suffered an on-field seizure. It was not the start for his professional career that anyone envisioned — but he managed a full recovery in a very short time. Three months later, on June 25, he started and played 90 minutes in a match against FC Dallas.
Holness went on to play 277 minutes over nine games, starting three of them. You might wonder if that was really enough, given the potential he showed and the relative dysfunction of RSL’s midfield — and really, it’s hard for me to come to a real conclusion on this question. The mitigating factors, of course, are obvious. There was a real change that Holness could have missed the entire season.
But when he was given the chance to play, Holness did show he was a rookie — that much was clear. He was bright but inconsistent, impactful but only in spurts. But that’s the thing — as he played more, he looked better. When given a chance as a substitute in the later weeks of the season, he tended to create chances and get into good positions.
While that didn’t translate into goals or assists, it did become clear that he’s a kid with a lot of talent, a good head on his shoulders, and a future. As a Generation Adidas player, he’s also exempt from the salary cap and the forthcoming MLS Expansion Draft — and that gives us good reason to expect he’ll be around for a while.
If he can continue the pace at which he’s developed, Holness could go on to be a mainstay at Real Salt Lake. It’s not even a terribly long shot at this point, really. He’s potentially creative enough to play at the 10, and he’s certainly strong enough to play further back, too. He holds a zipping shot from distance, a good eye for the pass, and a penchant for crafty dribbling.
He might not be the answer in any particular position, but if he’s given a chance to be a true backup in 2017 across the midfield, ideally playing 15 to 20 matches, we could see his development quicken. He should, at the very least, be considered there — he’s done nothing publicly to show he shouldn’t be. Will he be? That, of course, depends on how RSL general manager Craig Waibel and coach Jeff Cassar structure their squad. There’s a lot riding on that. But without a doubt, Holness should be a big part of that structure. I think he’ll show why.