Real Salt Lake Head Coach Mike Petke wasn’t trying to make a statement with his starting lineup on Wednesday in a preseason match against the San Jose Earthquakes in the midst of training camp in Tucson, Arizona. However, in starting five players who are products of the Real Salt Lake Academy in a lineup that didn’t look far removed from a full-strength 11, it put on display the depth of RSL’s roster of Homegrown talents that is on the verge of bursting even further onto the scene for the Claret-and-Cobalt.
In the match, 20-year-olds Justen Glad, Danny Acosta, Aaron Herrera and Brooks Lennon started along with 21-year-old Sebastian Saucedo, reuniting the five players that represented the U.S. at the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup after winning the CONCACAF U-20 Championships for the first time in U.S. Soccer history.
That youth movement speaks volumes for the development of players who have been wearing the RSL badge since their mid-teens. They are playing in matches not because of their youth, but because they are the best options. And while they showed some of the growing pains of youth, there were positives to take from their performance in a scoreless first half.
“There were some very good things they did today and some things they need to clean up. They put good work in and had some good moments,” Head Coach Mike Petke said. “Overall as a team, everybody was on the same page today and understood how we wanted to defend and how we wanted to get to goal and I thought we had many opportunities.”
After the match, Saucedo and Lennon were beaming about the opportunity to play with teammates that have been by their sides for over five years.
“It’s super fun having the young guys getting back into rhythm. We’ve played with each other for such a long time that it makes it easier for us to connect,” Saucedo said. “It’s so much fun. It’s the best feeling knowing that you can play with your brothers at a high level.”
Added Lennon, “Having guys from the U-20 group – it’s great to be on the same team now with those guys. We all know each other really well and know how we play. The team is starting to come together since we’ve been in Tucson. We’re really jelling together now and putting in good performances on the field. We just need to keep that up.”
In addition to the five academy products who started the match, Corey Baird and Jose Hernandez played in the second half while Jordan Allen has been with the club in Tucson, but is still recovering from surgery last season.