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Real Salt Lake Adds 22-Year-Old Colombian Nelson Palacio from Atlético Nacional


SANDY, Utah (Thursday, June 29, 2023) – Utilizing Major League Soccer’s U-22 Mechanism, Real Salt Lake has acquired 22-year-old midfielder Nelson Palacio via permanent transfer from Colombian power Atlético Nacional. Pending receipt of P-1 work visa and International Transfer Certificate, as well as the opening of Major League Soccer’s secondary window on July 5, Palacio will be added to Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni’s 2023 RSL roster. Palacio – signed through the 2026 MLS season, with RSL options for 2027 and 2028 – could join another recent acquisition, FW ‘Chicho’ Arango, as eligible to play for the Claret-and-Cobalt as soon as Sat., July 8 against Orlando City FC at America First Field.

"Nelson’s addition represents another fantastic piece for our roster for both 2023 and beyond.” said RSL General Manager Elliot Fall, who attended Saturday’s Colombian Apertura A Final second leg in Bogotá, flying back to the U.S. Sunday with Palacio and his representatives. “Providing another high-level option to our already excellent midfield, Nelson’s athleticism, composure, and ball-playing ability provide an excellent complement to every other player in our midfield. Nelson’s acquisition is consistent with our strategy of adding talent that fits both short-term needs and long-term quality. Nelson has enjoyed quite a bit of success with his boyhood club in Colombia, and he arrives in Utah excited to contribute to our pursuit of silverware this year, and surely in the future as he integrates.”

The 22-year-old midfielder joins Real Salt Lake from legendary Colombian side Atlético Nacional, where just last week he helped his boyhood club advance to the Primera A 2023 Apertura finals. During Atlético Nacional’s playoff quest, Palacio appeared in all six matches, starting and playing the full 180 minutes against Millonarios, the former club of new RSL teammates Arango and Andrés Gómez. Nacional fell in penalties following a 1-1 aggregate draw over two legs. The title would have been Palacio’s fourth after the 2021 campaign saw Palacio help lead Atlético to three pieces of silverware – Copa Colombia, Superliga Colombiana and the Categoría Primera A.

Palacio arrives in Utah as the Claret-and-Cobalt’s third U-22 addition to the 2023 roster, joining fellow Colombian winger Gómez and Paraguayan midfielder Braian Ojeda. Now in its third year, Major League Soccer’s U-22 Initiative allows clubs to add players age 22 and younger to MLS rosters, often with lucrative contracts at a reduced budget charge, decreasing the risk associated with acquiring or retaining players still approaching their prime. RSL’s two current U-22 Initiative players have contributed seven assists and one goal during a combined total of 36 games this year.

A product of the famous Colombian club’s youth academy, Palacio joined Atlético Nacional at the age of six, signing his first professional contract ahead of the 2020 season as an 18-year old. During his first professional year, Palacio was loaned to Valledupar FC in Colombia’s second division, Categoría Primera B. While there, Palacio played in 34 out of a possible 44 matches.

Since the end of his loan stint, Palacio’s presence as a ground-covering six has proven critical for Atlético Nacional during the last two-plus years, recording three goals and one assist in 85 matches across various competitions. Seven of Palacio’s appearances occurred during the prestigious Copa Libertadores, South America’s equivalent of the Concacaf Champions Cup. Palacio’s performances as Atlético Nacional’s “destroyer” earned him his initial Colombian National Team selection in March of this year, with the midfielder making his debut for Los Cafeteros as a second-half substitute in a 2-2 draw against South Korea.

TRANSACTION: Real Salt Lake signs MF Nelson Palacio via permanent transfer from Atlético Nacional (Colombia) on Thursday, June 29, 2023.

#13 – Nelson Palacio

Pronunciation: pall - AH - see - oh

Position: Midfielder

Height: 5-11

Weight: 176

Hometown: Apartadó, Colombia

Date of Birth: 16 June 2001 (22)

Nationality: Colombian

How Acquired: Signed via permanent transfer from Atlético Nacional (Colombia) on June 29, 2023

As of June 29, 2023, Real Salt Lake’s current roster, listed alphabetically by position, is as follows:

Goalkeepers (3): Gavin Beavers, Zac MacMath, Tomás Gomez

Defenders (11): Andrew Brody, Zack Farnsworth, Justen Glad, Bode Hidalgo, Erik Holt, Jaziel Orozco (on loan), Bryan Oviedo, Delentz Pierre, Luis Rivera, Marcelo Silva, Brayan Vera

Midfielders (12): Julio Benitez (on loan), Scott Caldwell, Maikel Chang, Emeka Eneli, Damir Kreilach, Jasper Löffelsend, Diego Luna, Moses Nyeman, Braian Ojeda, Nelson Palacio, Pablo Ruiz, Jude Wellings

Forwards (10): ‘Chicho’ Arango, Andrés Gómez, Anderson Julio, Bertin Jacquesson, Axel Kei, Joni Menendez (on loan), Danny Musovski, Ilijah Paul, Rubio Rubin, Jefferson Savarino

Nelson Palacio Fast Facts:

· Palacio becomes the fourth current member and seventh all-time of the Claret-and-Cobalt to hail from Colombia, joining elite company that includes current Real Monarchs Head Coach Jamison Olave who appeared in 120 matches during his tenure with Real Salt Lake, while also helping the Club capture its only league title in 2009. FW Olmes Garcia (104 appearances) and MF Sebastian Velazquez (43 appearances) make up the other two members of the trio of former RSL men that are from Colombia. Meanwhile, recent arrival, Cristian “Chicho” Arango and current center back Brayan Vera and winger Andrés Goméz are the other three members of RSL who are currently from Colombia. Never in RSL’s history has the team had four Colombians on its team at one time. Real Salt Lake now has the second-most Cafeteros on any MLS roster, only currently surpassed by Portland Timbers (five).

· With his arrival, Palacio becomes the eighth player in Major League Soccer history to transfer to the league directly from Atlético Nacional, joining Andres Reyes, Dairon Asprilla, Oscar Echeverry, Cristian Dajome, Christian Mara, Andres Perea and Carlos Rivas.

· Palacio will serve as the Club’s third U-22 Initiative member, joining fellow midfielder Braian Ojeda and winger Andrés Goméz. Major League Soccer’s U-22 Initiative allows clubs to add players age 22 and younger to MLS rosters, often with lucrative contracts at a reduced budget charge, decreasing the risk associated with acquiring or retaining players still approaching their prime.