Erik Holt’s very nature demands competition.It is evident from the moment he steps onto the pitch, the Real Salt Lake defender thrives in the battle with an innate desire to be the best.
Holt signed with RSL as a Homegrown Player at the start of the 2019 season, after four years at UCLA.
In his first season he became a centerpiece for the Real Monarchs on their way to lifting the USL Championship trophy, even scoring in the final. But circumstances the next year saw him provide depth at centerback for RSL.
Holt has been a member of the Real Salt Lake organization for the past six years, starting as part of the RSL Academy (AZ), helping the team earn the nation’s best record in 2015. On June 18 against Vancouver Whitecaps FC he entered into newfound prominence as the hero of the night.
With fellow centerback Marcelo Silva on a yellow card, Head Coach Freddy Juarez made the decision to make a substitution, inserting Holt to fortify the backline and help keep the Whitecaps from earning another goal. But the task asked of him would not stop there.
In the early minutes of second-half stoppage time Real Salt Lake was awarded a throw-in near the 18-yard-box and ever the defender, Holt made the decision to stay back to withstand the pressure from a potential counterattack.
“Originally I wasn’t even planning on getting in the box and Freddy was calling me, ‘Hey! Get in the box! Get in the Box!’ And I saw some space and I thought, I’m just going to try and flick this back post and into that direction and hopefully make something happen,” Holt said.
The trajectory of the ball following its collision with Holt’s head fell directly into the bottom corner of the net, underneath and out of reach from Vancouver’s goalkeeper to give RSL the late-game lead.
The crowd erupted with shouts for the young defender, embracing their unlikely hero.
“I can’t put it into words,” Holt said. “I couldn’t believe it, I was just so happy, humbled and proud to be a part of this team.”
What the fans missed were the weeks prior to that moment.
While many of his teammates enjoyed a much-needed vacation, Holt spent his break training and competing with the Real Monarchs in the USL Championship. During that period, he was able to accumulate precious match minutes with back-to-back starts.
Had he not utilized the Monarchs he would have been thrust into the Vancouver game without meaningful competitive minutes in well over a month. But the ability to do so put him in a position to perform at his highest level, which would ultimately lead to one of the biggest moments in the battle-hardened defender’s career.
RSL returns to action on Saturday, July 3 when the team hosts LAFC at 8:00 p.m. MT at Rio Tinto Stadium. Tickets to the match are available at RSL.com or by calling 844.REAL.TIX.