For Aaron Herrera, 2018 was a year that may come to be one of the most important in his career. With a team in transition, opportunities presented themselves for him to gain important experience and ample playing time for a player at his young developmental stage.
The 21-year-old academy standout signed with the Real Salt Lake senior men’s team before the start of the 2018 season after a stint at his home state University of New Mexico, where he played as right back for three years.
What was unexpected to see was his ability to keep up with play consistently throughout the season. Appearing in 16 regular season matches, starting 14 of those, and 3 post-season matches, Herrera impressed with his play and discipline on the field. Sure, he made rookie mistakes, but those weren’t often enough to fault him of being unequipped to find himself in a starting position.
What defined his season, to me, was his stoicism when playing out of position on the left side to his preferred right. He handled himself with a sense of humility. He didn’t seem to be afraid of not knowing the right decision and when the wrong decision was made he swallowed down the pride and continued on.
If you’re like me, you remember the LAFC post-season and karate kick and winning. Once I think a little more, past the glory, I remember Herrera on the verge of a second yellow for way too long. The anxiety from having that amount of responsibility on a defender of that age is pretty incredible if you think about the magnitude of that evening. He could have single-handedly been the unraveling of one of the most important RSL matches ever.
This is what Herrera needs to look at going into the future. In the 2019 season, Herrera needs to continue on, correcting as he goes the mistakes and weak points that we all saw. He’s a young man, with tons of potential and maturity. With the leadership around him and the amount of talent of his peers Aaron Herrera could be one on the most influential and important pieces to what I’m now calling ‘The Petke Youth Brigade’.
In the same way we’ve seen Beltran blossom into what he had become for RSL fans, I believe Herrera is quite capable of doing the exact same thing.