Pedaling away on the stationary bike, James Moberg watches over as a group of teenagers and early 20-somethings take to the pitch for training. There is an air of newness and change, it’s a far cry from his rookie days, but it’s still home.
Prior to the start of the season the Real Salt Lake front office made the decision to switch directions with the Real Monarchs, electing to sign young internationals and Real Salt Lake Academy players, as opposed to the previous formula that included veterans from the USL Championship.
Moberg is just one of three holdovers during the transition, and the only to sign a new contract.
“James doesn't fit perfectly with our roster, but it is so important to have an established and cemented leader,” RSL Assistant General Manager Tony Beltran said. “Moberg is a competitor who raises the level of everyone around him and that is contagious, the coaching staff and the players rely on him. We knew his personality would bode well with this new group and that he would not only have the capability to lead this team, but they want to as well.”
Now in his sixth year with the club, at 26-years-old, Moberg is the oldest on the squad. He’s also the longest tenured player and is the only rostered member to be a part of winning every trophy in club history, including the 2017 Regular Season trophy and the 2019 USL Championship.
With the exception of the team’s first official season, Moberg has been there for every moment, both big and small.
In the past, teammates have made remarks and jokes about how one day his jersey will hang in the rafters of Zions Bank Stadium, honoring the player they never could get rid of.
Jokes aside, this is where he wants to be.
“Utah is home. I’ve won and lost here,” Moberg said. “I have been a part of winning seasons and of seasons we’d rather forget, but this is home and I want to be a part of this family for as long as I can.”
Since his arrival Moberg has played an integral role on the team’s backline, appearing in 95 matches across all competitions. He has been a silent leader in the locker room, helping to foster growth within the players by providing an example of what it means to be a professional athlete.
But now things look a little different for the defender. As a veteran, he is one of the few who sets the standard and helps to establish mentality, both as professional athletes and as people.
“He is part of the continuous cycle in sports, balancing being successful on the field with teaching the next generation,” Beltran said. “Athletes can be selfish in their pursuits, but his willingness to believe in himself and go beyond his duties to make the team better is what makes him the perfect leader.”
When asked what he hopes to teach the younger players Moberg paused for a moment, contemplating his answer.
“The natural instinct is to work hard, but everyone at this level has worked hard,” Moberg said. “My daily habits and my commitment are non-verbal lessons I’d like to be able to share with the younger guys and the ones coming up from the Academy.”
His position with the team is not the only thing in flux.
Life for the California-native is simultaneously changing on and off the field. As he steps into the role as leader and captain for Real Monarchs, he is preparing to become a first-time father, anticipating the arrival of his daughter later this summer.
“It’s a big step in our lives,” Moberg said. “But it is one we want to do here. This organization is like a big-extended family and you know what they say, it takes a village.”
As the veteran moves through these two major transitions in life his goals for the year are simple, to be a positive influence to those around him in some way and to continue what he has done for the past six years, cementing himself as a reliable and consistent member of the organization.
The front office feels the same, imagining a long and prosperous career in Utah, as a player and beyond.
“We want him in the organization for years to come,” Beltran said.