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Building for the Future: Breaking down RSL’s young core

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How bright is the future?

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Real Salt Lake Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

An article came out on mlssoccer.com today listing the top 10 best young cores in MLS. Where did Real Salt Lake fall on this list? They didn’t. I know reading too much into listicles is a fool’s errand (The Prestige is way too low on everyone’s Nolan rankings), but posts like these highlight a growing concern/fear I have regarding Real Salt Lake: are we actually good at developing young players?

Real Salt Lake has made it clear that they are not going to be a top spending club and I don’t think new ownership is likely to change that, or that it’s really even necessary. What new ownership does need to establish is that RSL is a place players can come to get better. Between the Monarchs and the academy, there are a steady stream of players with potential entering the system. How good Real Salt Lake can be will largely depend on the ability of the organization to grow from within and get these players to a higher level.

Looking at the current group of young players (25 and younger, I don’t make the rules) there are reasons for both concern and optimism. I’ve broken them into two categories- Established and Prospects. Within these larger categories I’ve further broken them down into tiers that are logically inconsistent and mostly made up, but that give a general idea of quality/upside. Let’s get sorting.

Established

The January Camp All-Stars

This group is for Corey Baird, Justen Glad, and Aaron Herrera. All three are established starters and it’s clear that they are solid-good MLS players. Will any of them take that next step and be great? All three have the potential and have shown it for stretches. All three have also been forced to play out of position at times due to RSL’s poor roster construction. There is growing talk that Justen Glad will be playing elsewhere next year.

Happy, healthy, and in a system that fits their skill sets, these three could be a good foundation for RSL to build a five year plan around. We will see if they get the chance.

International Projects

Consisting of Pablo Ruiz, Douglas Martinez, and Jeizon Ramirez, this group has potential to be special but hasn’t shown it consistently. After seeming like he might never again suit up in Claret and Cobalt, Pablo Ruiz has been one of the bright spots on the team in 2020. Martinez has shown industry and the ability to be in the right spots, but his finishing has been inconsistent. Ramirez is a DP because of his transfer fee, but we don’t have enough tape to come to any conclusions.

If anyone in this group became a solid starter over the next few years, I wouldn’t be surprised. If any of them ended up as a bench player in Tulsa after the next few years, I wouldn’t be surprised. There are a lot of questions about this group, but also a lot of potential.

Squad depth

Unless one of them suddenly shows something we haven’t seen, this is the spot for Erik Holt and Tate Schmitt. They could hang around and play a few hundred minutes a season. It seems unlikely they’ll take a step further.

Prospects

International caliber

A David Ochoa start appears to be creeping closer. Julian Vazquez might not get there this season, but is one to watch. Of the two, Ochoa is the higher level prospect. He backstopped the Monarchs to a USL Championship championship and has potential to be playing in Europe at some point. Vazquez has been decent for the Monarchs and Mexico YNT and could make the jump. Our wing depth is thinner than it appears, especially if Ramirez ends up being further away than expected.

The Rest

Luis Arriaga, Chris Garcia, and Milan Iloski. I’m not even going to pretend I know much of anything about these three players. They are young and they are on the Real Salt Lake roster and they have potential to be good at soccer. We will see what happens.

All players 25 and under (age)

  1. Justen Glad (23)
  2. Aaron Herrera (23)
  3. Corey Baird (24)
  4. Pablo Ruiz (21)
  5. Douglas Martinez (23)
  6. Jeizon Ramirez (19)
  7. Tate Schmitt (23)
  8. Erik Holt (24)
  9. David Ochoa (19)
  10. Julian Vazquez (19)
  11. Luis Arriaga (19)
  12. Chris Garcia (17)
  13. Milan Iloski (21)