After opening on Thursday, the U-16 and U-18 players of the Zions Bank Real Academy were honored at halftime of Real Salt Lake’s match against Rocky Mountain rival Colorado Rapids.
Academy Technical Director Martín Vásquez spoke at halftime of RSL’s match against the Rapids about the importance of the academy developing players as students and as players, as well as his vision for the academy.
“We want to one day have 8-10 players with the Monarchs and 6-7 players starting for the first team,” Vásquez said. “Four years ago we had Justen [Glad], Brooks [Lennon], Sebastian [Saucedo] and Danilo [Acosta] on the field. They had a dream and they had goals to be here one day. Right now we have 15-year-olds and I think in four or five years from now, we’re going to be seeing the same thing with these players in the academy.”
The ability to produce quality young talent in Major League Soccer is a high priority for Real Salt Lake, who started three academy alums on Saturday and had three more on the bench. The young players at the academy level are being given the chance to interact and learn the culture of the club from both the first team and the Real Monarchs. Players such as Zahir Vazquez a member of the U-18 side, sees the opportunity to watch former academy stars like Glad and Lennon as a priceless opportunity to grow their own game.
“The other day Martín told us that these three games are the most important days of training that we’re going to have,” Vasquez said, referencing the two RSL matches and one Real Monarchs match at Rio Tinto Stadium this week. “Just to see how they play, how the atmosphere is and how people feel for this club is so important.”
Vazquez continued to speak highly of the new facility and after being a part of both Casa Grande and now Herriman. He feels as though something special is happening in the organization.
“We see them out there doing construction and getting the fields in and it just gives you the feeling like wow, we’re getting this thing started,” Vasquez said.
Construction is ongoing at the world-class $72-million facility on the south end of the Salt Lake Valley as the U-16 and the U-18 sides will begin their seasons on September 2 at Rio Tinto Stadium. Both teams will face off against the Portland Timbers U-16 and U-18 sides at 11:00 am and 1:30 pm, respectively.