Photo Credit: smackdowntay (smackdowntay.blogspot.com)
When it comes down to draft picks and young signings, Real Salt Lake seem to be very reserved. Yet they produce spectacular players. And then again, you hear a lot more rave reviews about other MLS team’s young guns. So what’s up with our young players? Why have ours been so great lately? All of that and more in this post!
Real Salt Lake was never a team that picked up amazing youth players and draft picks until very recently. They spent their first overall pick on defender Nick Besagno, who as you can tell, really amounted to nothing. He hardly played in his seasons with the team and was eventually waived by the club. In the next few years they picked up many players who didn’t turn up anything useful to the team. However, RSL was able to find one diamond among the rough when they picked up defender Tony Beltran. Since then he’s become a starter, fan favorite, and one of the most notable outside defenders with the ability to make outside runs on the attack in MLS.
It really wasn’t until the 2010 MLS Superdraft that Real made some good choices and ended up with some great standout players. That year they drafted Jean Alexander, Collen Warner, Rawshawn McKenzie, and Chris Schuler. They all played more than was expected in their rookie season. McKenzie was later waived, Jean Alexander was traded, and first round pick Warner was lost in the expansion draft to Montreal. All Real is left with from that draft is their third round choice Chris Schuler, who has really impressed and has become a challenger for the starting position in center back this season.
It was in 2010 that Real Salt Lake was able to trade for 16-year-old standout Luis Gil after Kansas City gained his rights in a lottery. This may live down as one of the biggest moves RSL ever made in their short history. Real was originally criticized for not giving the young guy any time in his first season in Salt Lake. He spent most of his time being trained and being loaned out to second-tier teams. He’s obviously moved on from that and made his mark. But believe me, at the tender age of 18, Luis still has a lot left in him and he’ll definitely improve more and more over the years.
The 2011 Superdraft wasn’t very eventful for Real. They traded away most of their picks and the only guys they picked up were sent home from the preseason camp.
Luckily for RSL fans, Real had an amazing 2012 MLS Superdraft. Former player-turned-scout Andy Williams ranked the college guys he saw at the combine and Real ended up taking Enzo Martinez, the man that occupied Andy’s top spot with their first round pick, the 7th overall pick. It was amazing to most that Enzo even dropped that low! Enzo will probably end up a lot like Gil. He’ll be a project player his first season and he’ll hopefully start making an impact inf the following years. The second round pick didn’t really go anywhere. Diogo De Almedia didn’t end up being a very good fit for RSL. The club waived him and picked up Chris Estridge in Diogo’s place. The third round draft pick ended up being a huge one once again for Real. They picked up the unknown superstar, Sebastian Velasquez, a junior college player. He was only the second junior college player to ever be selected in the Superdraft. (The first was Yura Movsisyan, a very notable former RSL forward.) With their Supplemental Draft pick, Real selected Emiliano Bonfigli, a young player who has played professionally in South and Central America. He’s ended up being pretty good for Real. I honestly think he could break in to the starting lineup in a year or so.
I believe that the reason that RSL’s younger players have been doing so fantastic lately isn’t so much to do with their skill (although that is a huge a factor) but rather the way they fit so well into the “RSL Way” and how the coaching staff is careful with bringing them in.
I also think that one of the biggest factors in Real’s recent ability to sign such great and young players is their choice to take risks where other MLS teams really haven’t dared to. They don’t pick the biggest college guys, they pick guys that sometimes just haven’t had the same opportunities all the college players have had and are looking for a chance to shine and will do anything they can to get to the top stage.
WE’RE HERE FOR RSL!!!