The 2017-18 Real Salt Lake Academy season held many firsts as the nationally renowned program moved from Casa Grande, Arizona to Herriman, Utah in the fall of 2017. This season saw the first Academy matches played on Utah soil, players make professional debuts and leaders emerge on the national stage.
“This season I was extremely proud of our boys,” RSL Academy Technical Director Martín Vasquez said. “Both teams had an amazing season due to their hard work, commitment and the overall quality in the teams. We are looking forward to continuing those things with some of the boys and their development. We’re extremely pleased with their overall progress.”
Over the course of the past week, the RSL Academy sides wrapped up its U.S. Soccer Development Academy playoff venture in Southern California after yet another successful regular-season. Although the U-17 and U-19 didn’t walk away with silverware at the end of the playoffs, there has been plenty to take away from the 2017-18 season for the Academy sides.
Booking places in the USSDA playoffs were the U-17s after it finished first in the Southwest – West Division standings, the team moved into playoffs having been grouped with BW Gottschee Academy, Vardar and Atlanta United. The U-17s finished group play having scored 11 total goals, led by four goals from FW Julian Vasquez with MF Bryce Duke adding a trio of strikes.
On the final day of group play as the club looked to book its place in the quarterfinals it faced Atlanta United for the group’s top spot. A 2-2 draw led to the 90th minute of the match where Atlanta notched a last-gasp tally to prevail by a 3-2 scoreline, ending the U-17s playoff run.
The U-17s were led by FW Ben Ortiz during the regular-season, who notched 23 goals in 29 appearances a Vasquez scored another 17 goals on the season.
This season the RSL Academy U-19 contingent finished second place in the Southwest – West standings just two points behind division leaders Pateadores. In the playoffs, the U-19s finished top of its group after a thrilling last-gasp draw on the group’s final day to book itself a place in the quarterfinals. Trailing 3-2 in the 90th minute and a knockout round birth on the line, the nation’s leading scorer in FW Sebastian Soto delivered the goal that sent the club through to the quarterfinal.
Awaiting RSL in the quarterfinal was the Columbus Crew Academy who finished atop its own group in the U-19 age group before ultimately prevailing over the RSL U-19s courtesy of a single strike in the 83rd minute to end RSL’s run.
Finishing the regular season with a resounding 42 goals, Soto notched another four goals in just four matches in the playoffs to cap his season with 46 total goals. Soto’s next closest competitor trailed the RSL man by 12 goals after the end of the regular season.
The RSL U-19 group also saw many firsts in 2018 as three Academy players made professional debuts with the Real Monarchs this season. GK David Ochoa and MFs Richard Ledezma and Glademir Mendoza all saw the field in the first third of the United Soccer League season for the current league-leaders while several more players – including MF Sammy Tojaga and GK Jacob Jackson – having both earned places on the bench for the Monarchs. Including Soto, all of the aforementioned players spent time with respective U.S. Youth National Team contingents under Youth Technical Director Tab Ramos over the course of the season.
In February, seven RSL seniors signed national letters of intent to play college soccer as Jackson, Mendoza, Soto, Tojaga, Diran Bebekian, Eric Virgen, and Zahir Vasquez all announced where they will play college soccer at the Division 1 level.
The RSL Academy remained one of the most elite Academy programs in the United States yet again after stunning individual and team performances alike to earn top of the table finishes in both age groups. Players made professional debuts, took home accolades and committed themselves to nationally ranked schools, making the 2017-18 season one to remember for the RSL Academy.