Over the last several weeks, Real Salt Lake has been bitten with the injury bug. With key contributors Javier Morales, Sebastian Jaime, Joao Plata and Chris Schuler all missing most of the last month of action, RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar has turned to the youth on RSL’s bench to step into the fray.
Now, 11 matches into the season, some of those injured players are nearing a return while the young players have gained valuable experience that will benefit the team in the short and long terms.
“When you’re relying so much on youth, it’s usually very good at times and very sporadic at times. But they’ve come in and given us a boost,” Cassar said this week. “This experience they’ve gotten is huge, whether it’s going into the rest of the year, whether it’s going into Open Cup and Champions League.”
Because of injuries, RSL has missed Plata for 11 matches, Jaime for eight matches, Schuler for seven matches and Morales for five matches. In their place, RSL has used five different players under the age of 23.
Jordan Allen has been a great success story of the early season, playing both as a forward and in the midfield. At 20 years old, he was expected to be a role player this season, but has instead started in five matches and totaled 508 minutes while netting one goal and two assists. That production has brought the attention of the U.S. U-20 National Team and Tab Ramos recently brought him to Australia to get ready for the U-20 World Cup starting May 30 in New Zealand.
In addition, Olmes Garcia, 22, started the first eight matches of the season at forward and has provided a spark off the bench in the last three matches. 18-year-old Sebastian Saucedo has played five matches off the bench and added his fearless approach to the attack. On defense, 22-year-old Elias Vasquez has seven starts already. And Luis Gil, 21, has shifted into Morales’ role in the midfield and got his first assist of the season on Saturday.
“I’m really pleased that they’re getting these quality minutes, but we need to get our boys healthy and get our full arsenal back,” Cassar said.
RSL hopes to get some of that injured contingent back on the field in the next three matches, with the club hosting NYCFC on Saturday, then heading on a two-game road trip to face the LA Galaxy on Wednesday and Vancouver Whitecaps FC on May 30.