Whether they are playing in the back or scoring goals as a striker, Real Salt Lake is full of young talent. These are some of the names to watch for in the news and on the field.
RSL 101 (2015): Why you need to know Real Salt Lake's youth contingent
A new addition to the Claret-and-Cobalt, Holness is a first year professional out of the University of North Carolina. At 21 years old, he has already been capped for the senior Jamaican National Team. Holness is also a Generation Adidas player and RSL’s highest pick in the MLS SuperDraft since Tony Beltran.
Holness has played on the wings and in the center of the pitch, but without doubt his best position was as a box-to-box midfielder in the MLS Combine; that's the role he will be expected to fill with RSL. Praised by pundits of being both physical and able to cover ground, he fits perfectly into the 4-3-3 formation. He also spent time with the Portland Timbers U23s — further evidence of great understanding of the aforementioned formation. With all of his talents, Holness could even make a case to become the Claret-and-Cobalt’s go-to No. 8 if push comes to shove.
The 18 year-old Real Salt Lake Academy product was named to SBI Soccer’s Top 5 MLS Homegrown Players not named Jordan Morris list. Acosta is considered by many scouts and coaches as one of the elite center back prospects in the nation. This does not mean, however, that he is not being groomed to be the defensive midfield replacement for Kyle Beckerman.
Acosta not only has all the physical attributes that scouts look for, but he also has a great soccer IQ. His ability to read the game and make a play was more than evident during his three appearances with the Real Monarchs last year. He is simply a smart player and with questions still surrounding RSL’s defense he could earn minutes and prove his worth at the professional stage.
Glad, another former RSL Academy player, already took to the pitch for the senior team in 2015. Filling in for injuries along the backline last year, he might be called on yet again with the currently thin defensive corp. Able to play either in the center or as a right back, Glad is developing into what Craig Waibel calls RSL's next "cerebral center back."
Although the youngster had to concede his previous kit number to a veteran, Glad retained and, in some aspects, expanded his role within the club. He handled his role within the depth charts well last year with excellent showings against opponents like the Houston Dynamo. And now with greater expectations stacked upon his shoulders, Glad could be called into action at a greater frequency this season.
Another young player that give up their number from last year to a veteran, Allen, the "Swiss Army Knife" of players, is apparently settling down into a singular role. Donning the more American Football-esque number 70 this year, Allen will be backing up the maestro, Javier Morales. He has already shown flashes of brilliance, even snagging his first professional goal.
Going into his third season, second complete year, with the Claret-and-Cobalt, Allen’s time of jumping from place to place on the pitch is finally coming to an end.
"I think it is important for my development," Allen stated after being asked about becoming the attacking midfield depth during RSL’s media day last month.
Playing a single role, Allen will learn the intricacies of his position and excel under the tutelage of Morales. Expect 2016 to be a big year for Allen, even if he fills the role of Super Sub as a difference-maker off the bench.
A bit of a journeyman at age 24, Welshman earned a spot on the senior team after putting in a great season with the Real Monarchs. In 19 appearances, he scored six goals and was a major contributor to the Monarchs' attack. Likewise, Welshman has also been a driving force for the youthful Guyanese senior squad earning five caps so far.
With international experience and USL playing time driving his development, Welshman has become a sight to behold darting up the touchline with enough strength to battle off most fullbacks. He fits the recent model of large, powerful wingers fielded in the MLS - examples include Teal Bunbury and the recently departed Krisztian Nemeth.
Despite his time being seriously limited with the senior squad in 2016, Welshman will provide depth in the wings, sitting just behind Olmes Garcia in the charts. If he does see time, expect the youngster to be filling in for an injury or tired legs.
RSL 1010 is designed as a refresher course on Real Salt Lake, or if you're trying to get your bearings ahead of the season. As we near the match against Tigres, watch for additional 'courses' while you get to know the team, MLS, and our history.