Player name: Justin Schmidt
Position: Centre back
Last club: University of Washington
One thing you need to know
Tommy McNamara. Calum Mallace. Jeb Brovsky. Tim Ream. A.J DeLaGarza. Graham Zusi. Taylor Twellman. What do these players have in common? Tremendous hair.
OK, seriously, they are all second round picks in the MLS Superdraft who have gone on to be solid MLS players (for those drafted recently) or move on to international leagues (for those later on). For those who dismiss the draft and believe academies should take their place, I am not among you.
I am a huge believer in the draft, which is why when RSL landed Justin Schmidt as their second pick, taking Reagan Dunk first. Schmidt comes from the Huskies over in Washington after playing 60 games over four seasons and managing to snag two NSCAA First Team All-Far West Region accolades. He's 6’1” and a good presence at the back of the field. Over the preseason games he's shown the same skills that had him touted as a first round pick by some. He plays simple defensive football and makes smart choices about what to do with the ball. He's got to catch up with the speed and physicality of MLS as it's a jump from college ball but the tools are there.
What he brings to the team
Firstly, depth at a position we've struggled to find quality in. Real Salt Lake have gone through a number of CB options since Borchers moved on and Schuler was released due to injury (although he now returns) so having another player to try out in that spot doesn't hurt. As I said before he makes smart choices and gets the ball out of danger fast.
Previously, Real Salt Lake has looked to play the ball from the back and retain possession in the classic diamond. Moving to a counter style with a three-man attacking mid means those hoofing balls that Schmidt plays from the back to dig the trouble away should find their way to the feet of one of that compliment, leading to a fast counter and hopefully a scoring chance.
After that, it's more of what we have been loaded with for a few years - Potential. Schmidt could be developed into a reliable centre back and I think he has a big part to play over with the Monarchs. He should rack up considerable minutes with Petke's team and that will help build his skills further. He's got a surprising number of goals to his name too, clocking nine with 19 assists over his time at Washington. If he can continue scoring goals too, it's just another part of a convincing case to give him some minutes in the first team.
Why you should be excited
Excited may be too strong of a word. You should be hopeful that Schmidt can continue his development at the fantastic facilities RSL have and hopeful he will get minutes somewhere to give him that experience he needs. Although younger, if he can spend time working with somebody like Justen Glad I could see him getting first team minutes at some point in the future.
Predictions for 2017
- He will report to Real Monarchs and play the whole season there
- We will hear about him with regularity
- He will be picked up for a second season with RSL