It wasn’t the result Real Salt Lake wanted on Sunday when it suffered a 3-1 defeat to V-Varen Nagasaki in a preseason tilt in the 2019 Pacific Rim Cup final to close out six days in Honolulu, Hawaii, but there were plenty of positives to take.
Although there were tactical elements, both positive and negative, from the finale, one of the biggest highlights of the week was a spectacular goal from 17-year-old RSL Academy product Julian Vazquez.
“There was some really good positives. It was a great response after the goal in the first half. I thought we had a lot of the play. They were extremely disciplined with their lines moving so it was tough to break them down, but we had some very good moments. Good response early in the second half and then the guys coming on, excellent response from them and a great goal from Julian for his first career professional goal,” RSL Head Coach Mike Petke said. “It was confidence. He turned and hit a rocket. We are happy for him. He deserved it.”
After the match, Vazquez was presented a signed game ball by Petke and his teammates to commemorate the moment.
“I just said, ‘Why not?’” Vazquez said. “I’m just grateful for this wonderful opportunity that I’ve been given. I’m just trying to make the most of it.”
It was a gutsy shot to take, with Vazquez turning on a ball from distance to beat the goalkeeper. At the time, it narrowed the deficit to 2-1 and although Nagasaki went back on the other end to score just one minute later, it didn’t take away from the moment of brilliance from a young player looking to make his mark.
“I couldn’t believe it, to be honest,” defender Nedum Onuoha said. “He’s a really nice kid and he’s come through the academy. It’s great to see people like that have their opportunity to play and to score. At the time, it was a massive goal, obviously it was a bit disappointing shortly afterwards. I think that’s going to be a highlight of this trip for me.”
With the Hawaii trip now behind them, RSL moves on to the next stage of preseason with a flight to Arizona on the schedule. While in the Grand Canyon State, RSL will play four matches, building toward the opening match of the season in Houston on March 2.
“We had objectives and worked on a lot of things. It was great to get away in the warmth here,” Petke said. “Now it’s on to Arizona. There were some good things to take away and some things we need to work on. Our focus is to get ready for the opener in Houston. We’re going to be working a bit more on our road form and defending on the road and how we can play in transition and build out of that.”