Last week, Real Salt Lake defender Elias Vasquez was given less than 20 minutes notice that he would be starting against Vancouver Whitecaps FC. If there’s one thing he’s proven in his short time with RSL, it’s that he can adapt on the fly, though, and he was part of a defense that limited Vancouver to just one shot on goal in the match. This one week after he stepped into the starting role just a day or two before facing Sporting Kansas City on the road and also held them to just one shot on goal.
“He stepped into a really tough place to play in Kansas City against a tough team – he did extremely well. And then to be called upon minutes before the game started and be as focused as he was just great,” Real Salt Lake Head Coach Jeff Cassar said.
Vasquez acquitted himself well on the field, owing in large part to the credentials he brought with him when he signed with RSL in the off-season. He previously had played three seasons with Comunicaciones in his native Guatemala and made appearances in CONCACAF Champions League. Despite his youth – he is still two months shy of this 23rd birthday – he also made four appearances in World Cup qualifying for Guatemala back in 2013.
But there is more to Vasquez than just his on-field experience that has made him a good fit in the Real Salt Lake locker room.
“For such a young player, he has a lot of experience whether it’s with the national team for Guatemala or playing so many games for his club team back home,” Cassar said. “But really it’s his personality. Right from day one, he’s been part of the group. His attitude’s infectious with the group because he’s always positive and it’s really pushed him forward.”
Captain Kyle Beckerman could tell very quickly that Vasquez would fit in well with his new teammates.
“Right away he came in speaking some English that comes from Guatemala and it was hilarious,” Beckerman laughed. “He’s just a really good person and that first and foremost, he jelled with us really right away because of his attitude and his personality. And then he proved that he was a good player. Put those two together and you’re going to get into the team really quickly.”
Now with two starts under his belt, Vasquez is ready to make his next start on Saturday in another tough assignment against defending Eastern Conference champion New England Revolution. This time with a full week to prepare for the start and a steady rhythm of matches, he is even more comfortable than before.
“It gives me more time to prepare. To be able to watch video and study the opponents a week in advance is definitely a lot easier,” Vasquez said through a translator. “I’m really excited to have the ability to start this game. We know our job. We know our responsibility and we need to maintain that zero – that shutout. I’m excited to step up.”
Coverage of RSL’s match against the Revs starts at 5 p.m. MT on KMYU.