Lalo Fernandez signed with Real Salt Lake in February 2012. His first appearance for the club is coming tonight, in his sixth season with the club.
That’s a remarkable number, but Fernandez signed as an 18-year-old straight out of the Real Salt Lake academy. Before he signed, he’d trained the the U.S. Under-20 national team and played for the Mexico U-17s.
Since then, Fernandez has become a mainstay for Real Monarchs, and he’s spent a fair amount of time on the bench for RSL when Nick Rimando is absent. But in all that time, he never stepped on to the pitch as a player for the first team.
It’s unusual in MLS for a club — and a player — to show that much patience. In fact, his five year, three month tenure means he’s likely the youngest player currently active in MLS to reach that mark outside of Diego Fagundez, who joined New England over six-and-a-half years ago.
While we’re talking about Lalo, perhaps recall the best memory anyone can really have of him: It was — I think — 2012. Real Salt Lake was playing a reserve match following the first-team match, so it was a real late night at Rio Tinto Stadium. I think Kyle Reynish was the player in goal that night, but I can’t be sure. In the dying minutes of the game, Lalo Fernandez entered, but not at goalkeeper — he came in at forward. It was clearly just a move designed to get him some minutes in a reserve game, but that was surely one of the best things I saw in the old MLS Reserve League.
Lalo’s first start for the club is surely some sort of momentous occasion. His first year at the club saw him suffer a broken wrist that kept him out of contention, and he played only sparingly in the old MLS Reserve League — you know, that travesty that sometimes featured oddly cancelled matches, a complete disdain for results, and plenty of young RSL Academy players that have gone on to play for Real Monarchs and Real Salt Lake.
Lalo Fernandez has endured at the club, and he’s getting his first start after a long time for a professional soccer player. Here’s hoping he helps lead the club to a win over Sacramento Republic.