Just a year ago, David Ochoa was heralded far and wide; he was starting for Real Salt Lake, and he seemed destined for a spot atop the annals of club history.
But 2022 has had other plans, and now Ochoa has been linked repeatedly with teams around the world. The latest? West Ham United, the English Premier League, who remarkably have a chance to finish sixth in the league (but will more likely finish in seventh, just outside of a Europa League spot.)
But there’s not a straightforward path between 2021 and 2022, and there are more unknowns than I know how to counter. I can instead point to a series of comments from RSL general manager Elliot Fall and RSL coach Pablo Mastroeni, who have both commented on the soon-to-be-out-of-contract goalkeeper in recent weeks.
Fall on David Ochoa "Zac's earned that job for now... David's working his way back into fitness and form." #RSL— RandalSerr (@randalserr) May 18, 2022
Mastroeni on GK David Ochoa's (excused) absence:— Salt City FC (@saltcityfc) May 15, 2022
"David's had some stuff that he's been dealing with. The most important thing for me is that any player has to be 100% emotionally, psychologically, physically to contribute. David's making good strides."
I asked Pablo for an injury update on David Ochoa -— Alex Mower (@alexmower) April 17, 2022
“He’s been dealing with a little bit of a finger injury. His quad’s feeling better. He’s been in and out of training throughout the week. We’ll see where he’s at tomorrow and go from there.”
Finger injury is news to me#RSL
Reading between the lines is a hard thing, and it takes some precision and often some inside knowledge. But at this point, it may be all we’ve got, because reading these things literally isn’t providing us much ability to discern truth, especially given the very rapid unfolding of rumors around Ochoa.
This article from @FOXDeportes says several European and Mexican clubs have been in touch with David Ochoa’s agent, mainly Atlético Madrid, Fulham, Bournemouth, West Ham, KV Kortrijk, Cádiz, Real Sociedad, Toluca and Querétaro.— Caleb Turner (@calebturner23) May 15, 2022
Ochoa’s contract with #RSL is up after this season. https://t.co/l1Tttif63k
Is it a coincidence that Mastroeni says Ochoa has “some stuff that he’s been dealing with,” with rumors populating near-simultaneously? Is it a coincidence that Ochoa is out-of-contract at the end of the year, and the rumors show him leaving RSL on a free? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But it’s also not proof, and that makes all this a bit more confusing. And maybe both Mastroeni and Fall are on the same page.
But whatever happens, I don’t think we have any room to be happy about the way this has unfolded. The lack of clarity around Ochoa’s injury status and personal status, combined with rumors that he’s ready to leave on a free, collapse into one thing for me: Never let your most talented players go into the last year on their contract.
I wasn’t in the room, and maybe we tried to sign Ochoa to a new deal in early 2021. It would have been the right time. But instead, Ochoa is now a player with Mexican National Team prospects, and there’s a very real possibility he’s reacting poorly to losing his starting position at Real Salt Lake. Whatever the case, it is RSL that loses out on the player — either with a healthy transfer fee, or with an exciting young goalkeeper between the sticks.