LEHI, Utah – As Real Salt Lake navigate their way through a congested schedule over the remaining two months of the season, they will have to rely on the depth of the team to wade through the bog. For the defending MLS Cup champs, that depth often comes in the form of youth.
Several young players have recently logged some valuable minutes and have performed quite well, but the most outstanding have been Tony Beltran and Nelson Gonzalez.
Beltran, 22, has been in the starting rotation along with Chris Wingert and Robbie Russell over the last couple of seasons, and has shown himself worthy of seeing time on the pitch.
Gonzalez, 21, has emerged as both a late-game substitute and even a starting option filling in at the left side of midfield amidst absences by Will Johnson, who has been called into the Canadian National Team on two separate FIFA dates. Gonzalez brings enthusiasm, energy and technical skill with his game.
Reserve goalkeeper Kyle Reynish, 26, and central defender Chris Schuler, 23, have seen very limited action this season, but both players received the start a couple of weeks ago in Seattle and played exceptionally well. The two could prove to fill vital roles going forward in securing the area in front of the net.
Two additional youngsters, Collen Warner, 22, and Jean Alexandre, 24, haven’t seen many minutes as of late. But they played key roles earlier in the season in the midfield. Warner has background as an attacking midfielder and has some creativity in his game, while Alexandre is a big, bruising defensive midfielder who can fill in for Kyle Beckerman when needed.
Finally, Real Salt Lake have seen some recent sparks from newly acquired forward Paulo Junior, 21, who scored six minutes into his RSL debut in a CONCACAF Champions League match. He followed that up by nearly scoring in his first minute of league action, sending a shot off the woodwork against Chicago.
All of these youngsters are likely to be relied upon over the next couple of months as Real Salt Lake finish out the group stage of Champions League play and continue their quest for the Supporters’ Shield.