A season has passed and another looms. Like any other industry, growth in sports demands change. Players go, players come. Whether on the outside or in, seeing players go is tough and this season it is no different. Probably the most notable change this season was the retirement of Andy Williams. Andy had a long fruitful MLS career culminating with his time at Real Salt Lake. His grace on field was defined by his simple movement in space with a beautiful touch to create space. His beautiful touch on the ball often translated to set plays to watch his magic. He had so many goals and so many assists. His play through the midfield will be greatly missed. However, RSL and fans alike are overjoyed to have him on the staff to help maintain a very classy organization.
Another great player for his years at Real Salt Lake was Robbie Russell. His defensive play and great vision down the field greatly assisted RSL in many accomplishments. I’ve met him once, and once was plenty enough to know how nice of guy he was. He sat next to me to watch RSL take on Portland in Portland. He was kind and social, despite the presence of “the beard.” One of his greatest moments with RSL that will never be forgotten occurred just over two years ago. The MLS Cup final was down to penalty kicks. Robbie would remain strong, confident and find the back of the net. The game winning penalty attributed to Robbie and it will never be forgotten. Robbie was traded to DC United in this offseason. The trade moves Russell closer to his wife. We wish the best to Robbie in his future career.
The MLS is expanding with the addition of the Montreal Impact. This led to the expansion draft and the Impact selected Collen Warner. Warner,a first round pick of the 2010 draft, appeared in 37 games for RSL over his two years there. It was unfortunate to lose a young hopeful, but we wish him the best going forward. RSL also traded Jean Alexandre to San Jose for a first round supplemental draft pick. Jean probably had his best year this past season moving forward and playing the attacking role. Slowly growing into it, he made some impressive marks on the game. Good luck to Jean in his growth and development at San Jose. Also, RSL elected not to exercise the 2012 contract option on three players. Nelson Gonzalez, Blake Wagner, and Rauwshan Mckenzie were all released by RSL for eligibility in the re-entry draft. None of these players were selected in that draft and now are free agents. With several players out the door, it opens another door to let new players in.
One word really defines the four new players on the RSL roster: youth. The first player was another homegrown in Eduardo “Lalo” Fernandez. The goal keeper comes out of the academy and although the starting keeper for RSL is known, he adds youth to the team. This past week the 2012 MLS SuperDraft offered three new players to the RSL roster. Real Salt Lake used their first pick (17th) to select Enzo Martinez of the University of North Carolina. Martinez is a creative midfielder some projected to be selected in the first five of the draft. As part of the Generation Adidas team, Enzo has had many opportunities to demonstrate his talent and RSL staff is very excited to have him on the roster. Enzo Martinez will likely fill the role Collen Warner played and his development will continue and we will very likely see him on the pitch this season.
The second player selected 24th overall is Diogo de Almeida. Jason Kreis describes Almeida as a left back likely to help Beltran and Wingert in their respective roles. A solid player from SMU that started as a forward moved to midfielder and landed at defender. As a defender his skills really shined earning him several awards for his play with SMU. Kreis and Co. will be looking to Diogo de Almeida to help bolster one of the toughest defenses in the league.
RSL used the 36th overall pick of the draft on a little known Sebastian Velasquez. Velasquez was playing at Spartanburg Methodist College as a midfielder. A native of Colombia he has travelled a fair bit to find his place. To the U.S., out to Spain and then back to the U.S. In his freshman junior college year he scored 20 goals and 17 assists. A truly incredible number, yet his sophomore year would be greater. Scoring an unimaginable 35 goals and 16 assists, Velasquez played with clear dominance. This 20 year-old could be an exceptionally unknown prospect. Hopefully he is another small-time, big-contribution player for the RSL staff. An added bonus—Enzo Martinez and Sebastian Velasquez played ball together in youth clubs and will likely instantly bring strength of play and cohesion.
Four new young players add excitement to the RSL roster. The 2012 season is two months away and the new additions will certainly help. The Real Salt Lake staff is not yet done and more players are to come.