Martin Vasquez has made an immeasurable impact on Real Salt Lake since joining the organization as Academy Director in 2011. Forming an incredible partnership with Freddy Juarez – then an Academy Head Coach and now an RSL Assistant Coach – Vasquez oversaw a setup that has produced professionals year-after-year and laid the groundwork for what has been one of the most successful youth development systems in the U.S.
With the Academy making the move from Casa Grande, Arizona, to the team’s brand new, $72-million facility in Herriman, Utah, his role in the club has taken center stage. On Tuesday, RSL Head Coach Mike Petke and some of RSL’s Homegrown players took the time to talk about how he has affected their careers.
“If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be here,” defender Danny Acosta said, matter-of-factly. “Ever since I got down to the academy, he treated me well. He pushed me to the limit. Every day consistently he and Freddy would push me in school. He was like a second father.”
Justen Glad has proven to be a rising star as a center back in MLS, but came to the academy in need of a challenge to push him to reach those horizons. In Vasquez and Juarez, he found a pair of motivators who had the backgrounds to instruct while also pushing him to new limits.
“They didn’t take it easy on anyone,” Glad said. “Between the two of them they have an amazing amount of knowledge and soccer smarts and they’re passing that down every training.”
For Brooks Lennon, the experience was as much about the connection he developed with a coach who, at the time, was working extensively under Jurgen Klinsmann with the U.S. National Team in addition to his time with RSL’s young stars.
“I changed as a player. I took it so much more seriously under him,” Lennon said. “He’s super-organized. He’s always staying late and trying to figure out the right things to do. Off the field, he’s a good person. I learned so much as a player and matured under him.”
Since coming to RSL at the beginning of the season as the Head Coach of the Real Monarchs, Petke was stricken with the opportunity to work with someone of Vasquez’s background. Now as RSL’s head coach, he works in lock-step with Vasquez as the two draw up the blueprints to the future of Real Salt Lake.
“He’s been at the highest level as a player and a coach. How we’re able to have somebody like this at our academy blows my mind. But I’m extremely excited about it,” Petke said. “He just has a deep knowledge of the game. And he has that temperament of dealing with kids coming up through the ranks. His knowledge of tactics is spot on. It coincides with how I like to play and how we want to play. And he is able to get the most out of these kids psychologically, physically and tactically. My hat’s off to him. I love working with him.”