RSL adds Matt VanOekel & Jose Hernandez to 2017 roster

2016 NASL Goalkeeper of the Year Van Oekel &2016 Pac-12 Co-Player of the Year Hernandez 

SANDY, Utah (Thursday, December 22, 2016) – Real Salt Lake General Manager Craig Waibel announced today that the club has signed GK Matt VanOekel and MF Jose Hernandez (Homegrown) to Major League Soccer contracts, adding the duo to RSL’s 2017 roster.

VanOekel, 30, was named the 2016 NASL Goalkeeper of the Year for his performance with FC Edmonton, where the Chesapeake, Va., native started 29 of the club’s 32 games, setting league records for shutouts (16) and goals against average (0.55). The former Rutgers University ‘keeper made 95 saves for Edmonton last year en route to a 15-6-8 record, claiming the NASL “Golden Glove” award along with being named the league’s Player of the Month in August and a pair of Player of the Week honors.

A veteran of 125 professional games with Edmonton (NASL 2015/16 seasons) and Minnesota (USL/NASL, 2009-14), VanOekel owns fond memories of Rio Tinto Stadium after starting and playing a full 90 minutes before 17,212 in the Minnesota Thunder’s 3-1 U.S. Open Cup win over RSL in 2012.

“I’ve always known RSL to be contenders, a fun team to watch and a club respected around the country for how they operate since coming into MLS,” said VanOekel. “I had the fortune of playing alongside Luke Mulholland for a few months in Minnesota, and I’m incredibly excited to learn from a goalkeeping legend like Nick Rimando and also Kyle Beckerman, meet all my new teammates, and of course represent the RSL badge for the great fans in Utah.”

Joining VanOekel as the club’s pre-Christmas signings for 2017 is RSL-Arizona Academy alumni Jose Hernandez, 20, who just completed his sophomore NCAA campaign at UCLA, earning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors in 2015 and being named the 2016 Pac-12 Co-Player of the Year. Hernandez also earned an All-America third-team nod this season, recording five goals and six assists in 20 games for the Bruins, following 11 goals and four assists in 2015, a year that also saw the Mexico City native make two appearances for the Real Monarchs in their inaugural USL season.

Prior to his time at UCLA, the 5-foot-5 Hernandez – born in Mexico City – played for the RSL-Arizona academy, scoring 25 goals and earning US Soccer Development Academy U-18 West Conference Player of the Year honors in the 2014-15 season. 

“Obviously the path from the academy in Arizona was a big advantage for my career, and even though it’s a cliché, my dream has now become a reality,” said Hernandez, the seventh Homegrown Player on RSL’s 2017 roster, joining U.S. U-20 standouts Justen Glad, Danilo Acosta and Sebastian Saucedo, as well as fellow Homegrowns Jordan Allen, Lalo Fernandez and Ricardo Velazco. “It will be simply amazing to get back on the field with guys I’ve played with or guys I’ve looked up to, and of course to be reunited with all the Academy guys. It gives me confidence to see guys that have blazed the trail that I’m now on.” 

RSL adds Matt VanOekel & Jose Hernandez to 2017 roster -

RSL opens its 13th MLS campaign at home against reigning Eastern Conference Champions Toronto FC at 2:30 p.m. MT at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday, March 4. The complete 2017 MLS regular-season schedule, along with the national television schedules for the U.S. and Canada, will be announced in January, prior to the 2017 SuperDraft presented by adidas (Fri., Jan. 13 in Los Angeles).

Season Tickets for Real Salt Lake's 2017 campaign at Rio Tinto Stadium are now on sale; please visit or call 844.Real.Tix for more information. An overwhelming percentage of current Season Ticket Members have renewed prior to the early deadline, with several hundred STMs looking to upgrade locations and add seats for RSL's 13th year.

On Saturday, March 11, Real Salt Lake – which returns nine of 11 starters (including club icons Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando, as well as leading scorers Yura Movsisyan and Joao Plata) from 2016 and a core of 16 players for Head Coach Jeff Cassar after qualifying for the postseason for the eighth time in nine seasons – travel to Toyota Park in Chicago at 12:00 noon MT, visiting the Fire in that club’s home opener.

The March 4, 2017 date against Toronto will mark the club’s earliest non-CONCACAF Champions League opener in its 13 seasons. All-time, RSL is 5-0-7 in its previous 12 home-opening MLS matches, including a 4-0-4 mark at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, dating back to 2009.  Only once before – on March 29, 2008 at Rice-Eccles Stadium – has RSL opened its MLS season with a contest on Utah soil.

RSL boasts an all-time 7-1-0 mark at home against Toronto FC, outscoring the “Reds” 19-8 and amassing seven consecutive victories since losing 1-2 on a late Collin Samuel penalty kick on July 4, 2007, at Rice-Eccles Stadium. In the clubs’ lone 2016 meeting, RSL dropped an 0-1 decision at remodeled BMO Field, as FW Toussaint Ricketts scored his first MLS goal for the 68’ game-winner. 

The 2017 Real Monarchs / USL season kicks off in April.  Season Tickets for the Real Monarchs third season in 2017 are now on sale; please call 844.Real.Tix for more information. Coming in late Summer, 2017, Real Salt Lake's regional training center opens in Herriman, Utah, approximately 20 minutes southeast of Rio Tinto Stadium.

The $50 million facility will serve as the daily training home beginning in 2018 for both of the club's professional teams – RSL (MLS) and Real Monarchs (USL) – while centralizing the club's U-18, U-16 and future U-14 development academy youth selections. The Herriman facility will provide adjacencies for an on-site charter school opening in Fall, 2018, with STEM disciplines (Science/Technology/Engineering/Math) for nearly 300 boys and girls.

In mid-November in North Logan, Utah, RSL Owner Dell Loy Hansen broke ground on the first of a half-dozen regional training centers across Utah and Arizona to be built in the next 2-3 years.  Each $5 million RTC houses a classroom, as well as an indoor and outdoor field, dedicated to fulfilling a curriculum dedicated to the club's vision and mission for youth soccer training and education, and the continued development of both recreational and competitive pre-Academy (ages 7-12) initiatives across Utah and Arizona.