The full depth of the Real Salt Lake organization was on display in an eight-day stretch as players from all levels of the organization shined in three different matches.
Starting with the season opener for Real Monarchs on March 26 at Rio Tinto Stadium and extending through RSL’s 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City and the Monarchs’ 3-3 draw with LA Galaxy II on Saturday, players from RSL, the Monarchs and the RSL-Arizona U-18 Academy all played roles in the teams going 2-0-1 in that stretch.
In the Monarchs’ opening victory over St. Louis FC, seven players from RSL were loaned to the Monarchs to get action during RSL’s bye week in the MLS schedule. Four of those players turned around and started for RSL in Kansas City the following week, and were joined on the trip by two players from the Monarchs – Andrew Brody and Emilio Orozco – because RSL only had 16 healthy players available for the trip. All the while, four players from RSL’s U-18 Academy were on the bench for the Monarchs in their 3-3 draw with LA Galaxy II. That comprehensive, top-to-bottom approach has RSL GM Craig Waibel proud of the growth trajectory of the organization and the family atmosphere within the locker rooms that goes with the “As One” mantra.
“We have a good group of young guys and reserve players that are ready to put a stamp on their own careers,” Waibel said on ESPN 700’s O’Connell and Swinney Show. “I was really proud of our group. I thought it was promising for our organization and a testament not only to the individuals in the locker room and to the staff that the preparation was enough and structured in a way that our guys were confident. That’s not easy to do.”
In Kansas City, the quick integration of reserves into the starting lineup and Monarchs players into the depth proved vital in earning the surprise road victory over a previously unbeaten team. That integration was due in large part to the cohesive locker room that has been developing over the last two years.
“I thought the guys that start day-in and day-out treated every other guy that was maybe starting their first game of the year very well,” Waibel said. “And I thought the communication on the field and the way they were treating each other – non-verbal – was a great sign for where we are.”
As fulfilling as the victory was under the circumstances, the underlying storyline of Orozco and Brody joining the trip was a cherry on top of the victory for RSL.
Orozco is in his second season with the Monarchs after playing 22 matches in the club’s inaugural season in 2015. Brody, meanwhile, made his professional debut one week earlier for the Monarchs after three seasons at the University of Louisville. With the roster diminished, RSL needed to turn to the Monarchs for reinforcements and the defender Orozco and winger Brody fit the bill.
Coming off of the victory over St. Louis FC the prior week, both players were high on confidence and ready to contribute if needed.
“It was a good motivation. We started off the preseason well, playing first division teams in Costa Rica. Ending the season with a five-game win streak, I was pumped to start the season how we ended. It was a great feeling getting that win,” Orozco said of the win over St. Louis. “Coming here, when I stepped on the field it was an amazing atmosphere. It’s a good feeling. It was exciting. It was a good moment.”
Orozco was moments away from possibly making his MLS debut when Glad appeared to be hobbled late in the match, but Glad carried on and finished out the match.
Back in the locker room after the match ended, Orozco and Brody celebrated with their teammates, but then turned their attention to the live stream of the Monarchs match against LA Galaxy II. Watching on their phones in the locker room, they were surprised to look up and see RSL teammates crowded around them watching the final moments of the 3-3 draw on the tiny screen rather than the MLS match that was on the television screen in the locker room.
“It feels like we’re family. That’s a good way to be on the field and be on the same page. On the field and off the field are the same,” Orozco said. “They’re involved. They’re wondering how we’re doing. Everyone looks out for each other.”
This week, RSL returns to its home field to host the Colorado Rapids while the Monarchs head on the road to face Tulsa. Both teams will look to extend unbeaten runs, but there’s no doubt that both teams will be well aware of the results of the other.
To hear Waibel’s full interview, click here.