Real Salt Lake enters its final week of the 2019 preseason and as the team nears its season opener at Houston on March 9, the newest members of the squad from the RSL Academy are acclimating to the professional environment.
Surrounded by a solid mix of veteran players and young players with Major League Soccer experience, the products of the RSL Academy are getting accustomed to the speed and quality of play.
“The speed of play and the work rate that everyone gives at the professional level is something I’ve really taken notice of and tried to do myself,” RSL forward Julian Vazquez explained. “The mentality within the team is great with everyone working hard to earn their spot on the field. A big thing I’ve learned is that you have to put in the work on a day-to-day basis.”
Players already within the team who have come from a similar position have taken notice of the RSL Academy products and with the goal to help improve the team with every training session and match, have taken the young players under their wings. For Vazquez, RSL winger Sebastian Saucedo has offered advice having taken a similar path to the professional ranks when he signed his first pro contract in 2015.
“Bofo has been a huge mentor since I signed with RSL,” Vazquez reflected. “He’s been through the Academy and knows what is expected on a daily basis. He’s helping me identify the things that I need to be doing to be successful. I’m grateful to have an influence like him to help guide me as I learn what the professional game is all about.”
Added RSL midfielder Luis Arriaga: “Through the first few weeks I’ve come to understand the expectations of not only the coaching staff, but the players around you. From the veteran players on the team to fellow RSL Academy players in my same position, I’ve learned that what it takes to progress even on a daily basis.”
In addition to learning and being mentored by teammates, Vazquez and others now have the chance to mentor the current players in the RSL Academy, just as the players before did for them.
“When I’m back around the Academy players in Utah, I’m happy to provide them with any insight and advice that I’ve gathered from the pros,” Vazquez said. “Our Academy players are eager to learn just as I was when I was in their position. It’s amazing to be able to already help the next generation of RSL players.”
With the mix of veteran players and younger players with ample experience in MLS and abroad, the culture is heathy for providing the young players with the tools necessary to be successful.
“For me, Kyle Beckerman has been such a great role model,” Arriaga said. “Veterans like him and Damir have really helped my mentality as I’ve gotten acquainted to the professional game. Then guys like Aaron Herrera – who was a rookie last season – have helped guide me through things. They’ve been in my shoes and they’ve even reached out to us individually to see what they can give to us to help us be successful. I’d say we’re really lucky to have them.”
Real Salt Lake will see two more preseason matches beginning with FC Dallas on Wednesday at noon MT before a Saturday bout with the Portland Timbers at 5 p.m. MT. Both matches will be held at Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, Arizona and will be streamed live on the KSL TV app.