The RSL Academy has produced regular contributors to the professional level that have seen success throughout the Major League Soccer and USL Championship levels, but there are only a handful that have entered the top tier. sat down with RSL defender Aaron Herrera, a player who has seen regular time within the U.S. Men’s National Team system and is currently participating in Jason Kreis’ U-23 camp in Orlando, Florida. We discussed how the RSL Academy propelled him to be one of the premier outside backs in MLS and how his journey through the Academy prepared him for the National Team level.

The discussion with Herrera is below.

Q: What is the most striking takeaway from the RSL Academy that you use being a professional?

“The Academy taught us all to be professional from a very young age. From day one they show you how to take care of your body because before the Academy, none of us knew what a foam roller was. They taught us how to manage or bodies and manage our schedules to maximize our performance. Being in the Academy curriculum, they teach you when to train, when not to train and how to get the most out of it. Rest, taking care of yourself and pushing yourself in training are my biggest takeaways that I still use today.”

Q: How would you describe the importance of the RSL Academy to a fan?

“I say it all the time. I don’t know what I’d be doing in life if I didn’t go to the Academy. I don’t know if I’d even be a professional, let alone in the National Team picture. The RSL Academy is extremely important to RSL as a club and my dad was the first person to realize that early on. He would always tell me that the Academy was the new way for soccer in this country. It was the path for me to turn professional and that’s what I did. It got me to college and then to RSL and then the National Team. It all starts with the Academy and I’m an example of that.”

Q: What’s your advice to an aspiring National Team member who is in the Academy system?

“What I always tell kids is what has worked for me my entire career: Always work as hard as you can. Work harder than everyone else around you and set that standard for yourself. Every time other people are taking a day off, don’t take the day off, even if you’re just recovering. If you’re to get that little extra bit of work in while others aren’t, things will go your way. In the end it’ll pay huge dividends for you in the long wrong even if it doesn’t feel like that in the present moment.”

Q: What have the resources that the Zions Bank Training Center provides done to enhance the quality and overall level of the club?

“I know for a fact that when I was in the Academy that we wished we had the chance to train and watch the first team on a daily basis. Now that all of our teams are in one place, the Academy now has the chance to learn from the top tier and rub shoulders with their idols is priceless. And you’ve seen the process pay off with more and more Academy players signing professional contracts with our club. Also, now that the players don’t have to leave school just to go to a professional training session is even better. To be able to walk right out the front door and go to school or the professional trainings is great. It’s incredible for these players see first-hand what they’re aspiring to be. They were our idols when we were growing up and now that we get to be friends instead of just people they see on television is really special.”

Q: How are the interactions between you and the Academy boys been through the years and what is your message to them?

“We always want the Academy players to know that they can come to us for anything at any time. Our door is always open so if they want playing advice or life advice, our locker room loves giving that advice. That’s always been my message. We love to be examples both on and off the field for these aspiring professionals.”