“Be patient, stay disciplined, then keep grinding.”
Words you’d expect to hear from a seasoned veteran preparing for yet another Major League Soccer season. These however come from an 18-year-old with only a handful of MLS appearances who’s only recently graduated from the Real Salt Lake Academy High School.
It’s an off day for the first team, a rare reprieve in the gauntlet of preseason.
Homegrown defender Jaziel Orozco is here though, alone in the empty weight room at Zions Bank Training Facility.
Just another opportunity to once again work on his patience, discipline and, as always, keep grinding.
This is On The Rise: Jaziel Orozco - Presented by Mountainland Supply
Orozco, yet another Homegrown defender produced from the RSL Academy pipeline, made the jump to the first team in January of 2022.
He signed as a Homegrown Player off the heels of an impressive debut season with Real Monarchs, during which he appeared in 24 matches. The only matches missed due to international duty.
In the 2021 USL Championship season Orozco recorded 80 clearances, 26 interceptions and 14 blocks, second in every category for Real Monarchs despite only being 16 years old at the time.
Orozco’s 2022 season, his first in Major League Soccer, was slated to be similar to the previous year. It was planned he would train and play with Real Monarchs in an effort to ensure he received proper game minutes to continue his development.
What was not planned were a series of injuries to first team’s defenders which saw Head Coach Pablo Mastoreni forced to rely on the teenager. Orozco was quickly summoned to train with RSL and be part of the game day roster for the Club’s match against Nashville SC.
One week later Orozco was thrust into Major League Soccer, making his debut as a halftime injury substitute for Erik Holt.
“It was a dream come true,” shared Orozco, reflecting on his RSL debut. “Just to play and have my first day in the first division, it is what you dream about as a kid. It was a great experience, great atmosphere. I felt like coming into the start of the season I had a point to prove, I had to be ready, and I had to be prepared when the time came.”
Orozco had little time to prepare, as Mastroeni pulled him aside during the short halftime window to go over set pieces and proper markings, but perhaps it was for the better.
“There wasn’t time to think, I just had to go out and play,” Orozco said. “But it was great. I felt happy about it then, and I still feel great about it.”
His next two games, both starts, helped the team earn draws against rivals Colorado Rapids and Eastern Conference foe Toronto FC.
But Orozco’s quick rise was halted after the team suffered a devastating 6-0 loss at New York City FC. The result, coupled with the return of veteran defenders from injury saw Orozco sequestered back to the bench.
“It was tough, but you’ve got to respect that the older guys have already earned their spot in the lineup with the coach," explained Orozco. “You have to respect the coach's decision to trust the older guys and put away those feelings.”
Part of putting it away for Orozco included returning to Real Monarchs and playing matches in the newly formed MLS NEXT Pro.
“It was all about mentality, just having to be strong and not really get in my head, not allow my mind to go in circles,” Orozco shared.
“All I could do was keep training, keep working in the gym, keep being my best, trying to be the best in the training sessions, which eventually got me out of the negative mindset of it all.”
Orozco would go on to finish the 2022 season as the Real Monarchs Defender of the Year, helping a struggling team as its captain end the year with a 5-3-3 record, including a four-game unbeaten streak in its last four games.
His patience, discipline and grinding mindset were rewarded with a captaincy and an award.
In most cases it would be safe to assume that after making his debut in 2022, the 2023 season should bring more time on the pitch for the young defender.
However, he’s still looking up at the reigning team MVP Justen Glad and renowned team leader Marcelo Silva, while fighting with fellow Homegrowns Holt, Zack Farnsworth and Pierre for precious minutes.
If last year has taught Orozco anything, it was that chances come.
“Everything that happened like last year, I didn't expect to make my debut, or play four games, or be like a starter for a while,” Orozco said.
“But I was prepared and now it has to be the same, stay prepared, keep competing in training, staying strong, doing everything that I can do as a professional and just wait for opportunity.”
Only time will tell if Orozco is in a position to seize his chances, but if past experience is any reflection, he’ll be ready to seize his chance.