Across the southern coast of Uruguay near the country’s capital of Montevideo lies some of the best wine regions in all of South America.
The land’s fertile rolling hills and proximity to the Atlantic Ocean have made a prime environment for creating high quality Tannat and Sauvignon Blanc, Uruguayan wines known for punching above their weight when compared to others on the continent’s market.
But besides reds and whites, this area near the Rio de la Plata has also been known to cultivate another export the country takes great pride in, footballers.
Real Salt Lake’s Marcelo Silva, who’s formative years took place in Montevideo, is no exception. The Uruguayan defender recently enjoyed the best season of his career since leaving his home country in 2010, and now looks to extend his stay near the Wasatch Range after agreeing to a multi-year contract with the Club.
As proven by his performances during the 2022 MLS season, the 33-year-old defender has only gotten better with age. Like fine wine.
While born in Mercedes, Uruguay on the country’s western portion, Silva’s professional career began in Montevideo with Danubio F.C, coming up through the Club’s youth academy.
The capital city Club famous for producing Uruguayan legends Diego Forlan and Edison Cavani, gave Silva his debut at the age of 20. After making 21 appearances with Danubio, he left his home country for Spain where he’d spend the next seven seasons playing for the likes of La Liga and Segunda Division clubs UD Almeria, Las Palmas, Real Valladolid and Real Zaragoza.
After not making more than 50 appearances with any of his Spanish clubs, Silva would make the move back across the Atlantic in 2017 to Real Salt Lake. While the center back would be hampered with injuries throughout his first four seasons in Utah, his quality showed through. In 2022, it all came together for Silva who started 31 of the Club’s 34 matches in MLS, most of which while wearing the captain’s armband as Damir Kreilach missed time with an injury.
“I think he’s a very emotional person that wears his heart on his sleeve, but I think he really cares about his teammates,” RSL Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni said. “That’s a big part of why Marcelo has been such a valuable member of our group because he’s making great decisions and being a team player. He’s such a leader, and that’s why he was captain.”
According to Fbref, in 2022 Silva posted stateside career highs in tackles (40), blocks (30), and interceptions (53). His 53 interceptions were tied for eighth best in all of MLS.
He also played and contributed to all 10 of the Club's clean sheets on the season, creating an impressive center back partnership with Homegrown Justen Glad. While the duo helped secure the Club’s backline, they also provided a much needed scoring lift, with Glad scoring three times and Silva twice.
“Every set piece is a great opportunity to get a goal," Glad said. “It’s a huge part of the game. Me and Marcelo, we really emphasize that. If you’re not scoring goals in the run of play, that’s how you’re going to score.”
Silva’s two goals which matched his MLS career high set in 2019, also proved to be massively impactful to the Club’s season as both were matchwinners against the L.A. Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes. Those six points were immense in helping RSL secure their second consecutive MLS Playoff berth.
When Real Salt Lake needed a first penalty taker in their postseason penalty shoot-out against Austin FC, it was their interim captain who took the responsibility and scored.
While RSL would eventually fall short in the shoot out, it highlighted the growth Mastroeni had pointed out in Silva’s leadership.
Now entering his sixth season with the Claret-and-Cobalt, the Uruguayan aims to better his career best 2022 season, and add to his 112 appearances for the Club.
Like a robust Tannet or Savaign Blanc from the Uruguayan countryside, Silva looks to just keep getting better with time.
“From my first day to now I really enjoy my time with the Club, the city, and my teammates," Silva said. “Even outside of my football career there have been many memories and moments I have enjoyed with my teammates, and here in Utah. I am very grateful for all the amazing moments from football, to life and to the Club to have the opportunity to be here and to enjoy all this.”