Both Craig Waibel and Dell Loy Hansen have put a premium on developing talent in recent years. Investing millions of dollars and countless hours into improving the foundation of the club, the management of RSL looks to be building towards the future.
“Play your kids,” is a common phrase heard around the league and that is just want RSL intends to do. As structure begin to rise out of the weed filled fields in Herriman, Utah, Dell Loy has made it evident he is committed to building this club.
A new academy will open later this year, so we thought we would recap some of the best players to come out of the Real Salt Lake academy thus far:
10. Sebastien Des Pres - Midfielder with Blackpool FC
From Casa Grande, Arizona, Des Pres is a talented young holding-midfield talent (Editor’s note: This original asserted that Des Pres was a playmaker, but we were informed that he was a No. 6 with the academy, however, at Blackpool he sometimes appears to play as a deep-lying playmaker). He was a familiar face for the Real Salt Lake U-17s and U-18s making over 30 appearances. Since graduating earlier this month, he signed his first professional contract with Blackpool FC currently completing in the English League 2.
9. Maikon Orellana - Forward (unattached)
Born in Chalatenago, El Salvador, Orellana moved to Provo before signing with the Real Salt Lake Casa Grande Academy. He then saw the opportunity to play at the senior level for Brønbdy IF in Denmark and Alianza in El Salvador after just two seasons in the youth ranks. Abroad, Orellana made 15 appearances and scored three goals before coming back to the Wasatch Front to join the Real Monarchs. He made 45 appearances and scored seven goals in his two years with RSL’s USL affiliate before he was released by the club last September. Currently a free agent, Orellana’s soccer career is certain to be far from done.
8. Ricardo Velazco - Winger with Real Salt Lake
A proven offensive threat with a never say-die attitude, Velazco has made the most of having a Major League Soccer academy open in his home town. He excelled during his time at the RSL academy and then again during his college career where he went on to score 19 goals between Cal State and Louisville. In 2015, Velazco signed with the Real Monarchs for their inaugural season. He lead the team with four assists and tallied two goals. The following year he went on to score eight times and facilitated five wonderful assists. With a resume like that, it is no wonder why RSL inked the young attacker as a Homegrown Player.
7. Danilo Acosta - Defender with Real Salt Lake
Danilo Acosta was RSL’s tenth Homegrown Player signing. He helped his team reach the championship final in two out of his three years with the academy. He was an imposing center back at the youth levels but has transitioned to more of a holding midfielder and sometimes fullback role as a professional. Acosta first played three matches for the Real Monarchs in 2015 before joining RSL. Although his playing time with the first team has been extremely limited - making only two appearances in 2016 - he did not go unnoticed making the roster of the 2016 MLS Homegrown roster. With a little more time to adjust to the league and some tips from Kyle Beckerman, we could easily be looking at the future No. 6 for RSL.
6. Eriq Zavaleta - Defender with Toronto FC
Eriq Zavaleta’s time at the RSL academy is often forgotten as he also spent time with Chivas USA (nephew of Greg Vanney, on the Chivas coaching staff at the time) and Columbus Crew youth sides. A member of the 2010-2011 Casa Grande U-20s, the youngster spent all of his time as a No. 9. In college, Zavaleta continued being a striker for the Indiana Hoosiers missing only two games in two seasons and averaging 0.6 goals per match. In 2013, he signed a Generation Adidas contract and was drafted 10th overall by the Seattle Sounders but struggled as an professional attacker. He finally found his place with Toronto FC after making the switch to central defense. Zavaleta helped anchor the five-man back line for the Reds leading them to the 2016 MLS Cup Final. While his team was unable to capture the ultimate prize, expect him to feature prominently for Toronto in 2017.
5. Sebastian Saucedo - Midfielder with Real Salt Lake
Sebastian Saucedo was a goal scoring machine with the Casa Grande academy teams. The diminutive playmaker spent three years in Arizona featuring the the youth championship finals twice. Saucedo was signed to a Homegrown contract on July 25, 2014, and has shown promise with both the Claret-and-Cobalt and Monarchs. Usually featured as a substitute, he brings plenty of speed, creativity, and hard work. He continues to make regular appearances with the US international youth teams and most recently scored a brace to route Costa Rica’s U-20s. After winning the 2016 Copa MX Clausura with Veracruz while on loan, Saucedo comes back to RSL hungry and could feature in any attacking position for the Claret-and-Cobalt.
4. Jordan Allen - Winger with Real Salt Lake
Jordan Allen has featured prominently for the Claret-and-Cobalt even since signing his contract back in December 2013. To date, he has made 48 regular season appearances and scored four goals. He made his professional debut in March 2014, but had to wait for a year after that to score his first professional goal against Toronto. Previously dubbed the “Swiss Army Knife,” Allen has made the permanent transition to winger. His vision and ability to handle the ball has suggested he is the heir apparent to Juan Manuel Martinez, meaning the role of starting right wing is his to lose. Allen could emerge as a key player in 2017 but he will battle Saucedo and Luis Silva to retain his starting XI role.
3. Justen Glad - Defender with Real Salt Lake
The 2017 Breakout Player of the Year for Real Salt Lake, Justen Glad had firmly cemented his place in first team central defense. The soon to be 20 year old Glad as earned accolades from club and league alike, even marshaling the defense during the 2016 MLS Homegrown match.
Another common addition to the US youth international ranks, Glad has already been capped 14 times. Last season he helped his team to five regular season shutouts and will look to improve on the number for 2017. With veterans like David Horst and Chris Schuler competing for his starting role, Glad will have to push the limits of development as he seeks to remain top of the depth chart.
2. Brooks Lennon - Foward on loan to Real Salt Lake from Liverpool
Easily the best attacking product out of the Casa Grande academy, Brooks Lennon return to RSL is something that every fan should appreciate. He shown brightly in US Soccer Development Academy action and became a regular in US youth international ranks. After leaving for Liverpool in the summer of 2015, the now 19-year-old Lennon recorded two goals in 12 appearances with the Liverpool U-23s.
He is currently preparing to participate in the 2017 CONCACAF U-20 Championship hoping to help his side earn a spot in this summer’s U-20 World Cup. A versatile attacker, Lennon is capable of playing either as a second striker or winger and will be relied upon to provide depth in the RSL attacking corps.
1. Carlos Salcedo - Defender on loan to Fiorentina from Chivas Guadalajara
Carlos Salcedo’s time at Real Salt Lake abruptly ended after the 2014 MLS season. It was known that Jeff Cassar and the player had conflicting views of how best to use the young defender, but, after releasing a statement on social media, it came as a surprise that Salcedo was leaving the club. Best described as a black-eye on Cassar’s resume, losing this talented young defender came back to haunt the Claret-and-Cobalt who finished the 2015 season with one of the worst defensive records in the league and missed the post-season for the first time in nine years - but that is another story entirely.
It was brought to my attention that the conflict between Salcedo (and his father-agent) was between them and Garth Lagerwey. Still, little seemed to be done in the public’s eye to retain Salcedo’s talent, letting him fade into the distance. Salcedo obviously demonstrated the talent to be a starting center-back in this league and his departure was hard to stomach as a fan.
Salcedo began his youth career with C.D. Guadalajara (Chivas) and Tigres UANL before joining the Real Salt Lake academy in January 2012. His talent was immediately noticed when after a mere eight months with the organization, he started training with the first team squad full-time. He was signed as a Homegrown player by the Claret-and-Cobalt in January 2013 having met the minimum one year of academy training. Salcedo made his debut for Real on May 4, 2013 against the Vancouver Whitecaps and by the end of the season he was a regular starter.
Since leaving RSL, Salcedo went back to Mexico to help his hometown club survive the relegation battle before being loaned to Fiorentina of Italy’s Serie A. Making 55 appearances in Mexico, along with 12 in Italy, Salcedo has worked him into consideration for a Mexican national team role. Thus far he has earned a total of 18 international caps at both the youth and international level.
A good passer and strong,concentrated player, Salcedo is easily the top player to come out of the RSL academy.
What do you think? Who are the best players that RSL’s academy has produced? Did we get it right? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.