So a couple of weeks ago when I was at RSL practice, I noticed something very distinctive about how the players were split into groups. The more experienced/veteran players were in one group and the other was made up of most of your newer/younger players. Then on Wednesday at the Reserve match I got to see a lineup for RSL that was very young in comparison to our normal starting lineup which features 7 players 30 years old or older:
- Kyle Reynish – GK – 28
- Carlos Salcedo – DF – 19
- Kwame Watson-Siriboe – DF – 25
- Chris Schuler – DF – 25
- Kenny Mansally – DF – 23
- Enzo Martinez – MF – 22
- Yordany Alvarez – MF – 27
- Sebastian Velasquez – MF – 21
- David Viana – MF – 20
- Emiliano Bonfigli – FW – 24
- Justin Braun – FW – 25
You know the song, “The future is so bright, I got to wear shades”, well for RSL a look at that list and you have to believe that the song might have hit is on the head. Now we know a couple of things, first there is no way that all of these guys are with RSL in 2015, transfers, trades, the salary cap, and other things make it highly unlikely that RSL will be able to keep that core together. Second, development may not continue, we have seen moments of very solid play from all of those players named above, but very few have show the level of consistency to be considered “MLS” ready.
A few have shown that they could be a part of the future core of RSL, at the top of the list have to be:
Will Johnson – It seems as if Will has been with the team forever, but he is just 25 and his quality have made him a MLS All Star and a regular for the Canadian National Team. Will’s endless energy and drive on the pitch are legendary around the league, less known is how nice of a guy he is off the pitch. He always has time for the fans, and both attributes have lead to him being a fan favorite.
Tony Beltran – Like Will it seems as if Tony has been with the team a long time, and he has but at 24, he has a lot of years in front of him. Tony is one of the few outside back in MLS that I have seen run down some of the fastest and best players in the league from behind, I still remember a couple years ago at Rio Tinto when Landon Donovan was about 10 yards in front of him on a counter, and Tony not only caught him but got in front of him to break up the play. I hope we have many more years of watching things like that.
Fabian Espindola – While he is a bit older than the others, but I think he is the type of player who could continue to make a huge impact for RSL for several years to come. His energy, passion and drive make him a player that the opposition hates and that RSL fans love. He is willing to play the role of goal scorer, or provider as we have seen in recent weeks, and while his passion may get him in trouble with the officials from time to time, it makes the fans love him.
Luis Gil – I don’t think we talk about the potential any more, I think we talk about how long can RSL keep him? Just 18 years old, and 31 starts with 52 appearances he has left the talk about his age behind him. I have no doubt that Luis will graduate from the Generation Adidas program at the end of the year, which means he will need to work out a new deal with RSL and that he will now count against the salary cap. His time with the U-20 team could lead to a lot more people outside of MLS knowing about Luis and what he is capable of on the pitch. That could make it hard for RSL to keep him for too long, but I have to believe that Jason and the staff are in no hurry for him to go anywhere.
Next up are the guys who have contributed off the bench or stepping into the starting lineup from time to time:
Chris Schuler – Young, strong, big, oh and if you have been listening to RSL head coach Jason Kreis, you know that he thinks Chris should be getting some attention from the USMNT.
Sebastian Velasquez – Early in the season he was pressed into action and delivered, now RSL is back to their normal bring younger players along slowly strategy. Sebastian quickly became a fan favorite for his unique hairdo as well as his exciting play and great personality.
Jonny Steele – Few players have been called upon more this year to come off the bench and make a difference than Jonny Steele, remember back to that late comeback in Portland. It could be that the journeyman has found a home.
Yordany Alvarez – While not as young as some on this list, he still could be a guy who plays a huge role for RSL for years to come. He has shown that he can step in at d-mid and fill the very big shoes of Kyle Beckerman, and that is not an easy task for anyone.
Justin Braun – We haven’t seen as much of Justin as some people would have expected after we picked him up from Montreal, but adjusting to what is expected of players at RSL isn’t something that every player can do overnight. Perhaps the best signs of what might be coming from Justin, is the performance in the Houston reserve match, where he picked up 3 assists and was dangerous throughout the match.
Kwame Watson Siriboe – He may not have played a single MLS match for the Fire last year, but upon his arrival at RSL he was tossed right into the fire and able to show that he does have what it takes to be a success at the MLS level.
Then there are the guys that we just don’t know enough about yet but could develop into guys that propel RSL’s future:
David Viana – It is impossible to tell a lot from one match, but I could see that he clearly has talent on the ball, can pass and dribble well, and has a powerful shot. He came here to play, and while I am not sure if he has intentions on staying long term or using RSL and MLS as a platform to return to Europe, but I think he could be a guy that makes an impact for RSL both short and long term.
Enzo Martinez – While we have seen some of the other new players make spot appearances in the RSL first XI we haven’t seen Enzo yet, but progress is being made as we have seen him make the travelling team and even get into the 18 man roster from time to time. During the recent 5-5 reserve match draw with Houston, I thought he looked very good when he was in the midfield, and that he struggled when he moved to the back line. I have high hopes that we will start seeing Enzo more and more.
Nico Muniz – Every time I have seen Nico play, I am more and more impressed with how he is advancing. I know it must be hard for a young player who simply wants to play and prove himself, but Nico could be one of the guys who like Luis Gil that Jason brings along slowly and then unleashes him on the league. I do think he has the potential to be a starter for RSL 2015.
Kenny Mansally – A know quantity with New England, given a 2nd chance with RSL. A move to the backline (a position he plays for the Gambian National Team) could be just what this 23 yr. old speedster needs. Consistency and discipline will be the areas that he will need to work on as he moves to get more first team minutes.
Emiliano Bonfigli – Fast, tall, young, oh and the ability to change a match very quickly. I am not sure that anyone expected too much from a supplemental draft pick but I think everyone has been surprised by what Emiliano offers. It isn’t often that a rookie scores a goal in just his second match, ever more rare that one does it on the road to tie up a match, but that is what Bonfigli did back on April, 25th in Dallas. The future could be very bright for Emiliano if his development continues.
Carlos Salcedo – I fully expect that Carlos will likely be the next player to sign a Homegrown contract with RSL, but due to roster restrictions I don’t expect that until after the end of the season. I don’t have any inside information, but Carlos has spent most of the summer and fall with RSL and I have to consider that a very good sign for him.
Then there are the unknowns, there will be more draft picks, there will likely be more trades, and more homegrown players:
Jordan Allen – Yes, I know that he wants to go to Virginia when he graduates this year, but I also have to believe that if he really wants a chance to play “Big Time” soccer in Europe, that Real Salt Lake might be his best path. A ton of potential and talent, only time will tell what the next chapter in his story is and if it involves RSL. The interesting thing is, even if he goes to college for a few years, he could still be a factor in RSL 2015.
Antonio Murillo – I know you probably haven’t heard of him, he is a senior at the RSL Academy and on the rise according to most of the youth rankings out there. He is a midfielder from Las Vegas, and you just never know with young players.
??? – Who is the next young player that RSL will bring to MLS, there is no way to know the future, but I have to expect that our continued success and style of play make RSL an attractive team for a lot of young players.
So what do you think? Which of these players might be the one to become the next big time star for RSL? I am not sure, but I see a lot of them that has me very excited about what RSL might look like in 2015. Change is bound to happen to the RSL roster that is getting older and with the roster and salary cap restrictions of Major League Soccer, you never know what form that change will come in, for RSL it looks as if the future is already starting to come together.
That’s How I See It