Real Salt Lake got news this morning that a number of its key academy players both past and present will be missing significant time with their clubs in order to pursue Olympic Gold.
These call-ups were to be expected, given that the players listed have been seeing regular time with the US U-23’s over the last couple of camps. That does not however lessen the impact in any way. Let’s break down who will be leaving, for how long, and how Freddy Juarez will most likely replace them.
Players Called Up
There were four current players called up, and two former RSL academy products. Typically, four players called into national camp isn’t in and of itself a big problem, but when you take into consideration that three of RSL’s current players called up are on defense, that creates some issues.
RSL will be without Justen Glad (CB), Aaron Herrera (RB) David Ochoa (GK) and Douglas Martinez for the qualification tournament that runs from March 20th through April 1st in Guadalajara, Mexico. On top of that, former RSL academy product Sebastian Saucedo was called up from Pumas UNAM as well as Richie Ledezma from PSV Eindhoven. Players are said to be reporting tomorrow to the U-23 team, so the impact will be felt immediately. All of the players mentioned above will be representing the United States of America, with the exception of Douglas who will be representing Honduras.
That is a strong showing for RSL’s academy, with 5 of the 20 players on the US U-23 roster (25%) coming out of RSL’s system. Something is going very right in Herriman and fans should take courage in that.
With the recent issues with COVID-19 there is a lot of discussion around whether the tournament should and will take place. As of right now the tourney is moving forward as scheduled, but that could change. Another likelihood is that CONCACAF will follow similar suit as other leagues and make the games closed to the public, which likely helps the USA given that it will be on Mexican soil.
How Does RSL Adjust
Some of the adjustments have already been made, in that we have seen Zak MacMath and Marcelo Silva take the starting minutes at GK and CB the first two games. This is a smart move by Freddy Juarez to provide the time to allow chemistry to build in those roles without having it affected when Ochoa and Glad leave. However, Aaron Herrera has played all 180 minutes of the season thus far and provided the game winning assist last Saturday.
The most realistic like for like replacement for Herrera would be Alvin Jones, the newly signed RSL RB from Trinidad & Tobago. He had a wonderful goal for the Monarchs two weeks ago and was brought in specifically to push Herrera. While this seems like the most likely scenario, Jones is not the caliber of RB as Herrera and has had some struggles the last two weeks in defense for the Monarchs.
Another option is Ashtone Morgan, who is typically a LB but could be slid over if Jones doesn’t have the confidence of the gaffer.
The wild card option is to play with a 3-man backline in Nedum Onuoha, Marcelo Silva and Erik Holt, with Donny Toia and Pablo Ruiz playing as wing-backs. Or something along those lines.
Either way, we are super happy for the RSL academy products, but still searching for an RSL win.