Given the top-of-the-table clash with Sporting Kansas City (and the controversy that surrounded the 2-1 loss) Saturday was obviously a big day for Real Salt Lake.
A little lost in that shuffle, however, was some good news for the team’s future.
RSL’s Under-15/16 youth team won the national Development Academy championship Saturday in Houston, becoming the first residential program to win that title.
The Real Salt Lake team, based out of Casa Grande, Ariz., was the only MLS youth team to make the final four, and beat Dallas’ Solar Chelsea 4-2 in the championship game.
It was the second time in the past three years RSL has had a team make a youth final.
Brooks Lennon, one of the club’s most intriguing young prospects, scored and notched two assists in the win. Sebastian "Bofo" Saucedo, from Park City, scored and had a helper. Evan Waldrep and Justen Glad, a defender who featured in an RSL reserve draw earlier this year against FC Phoenix, had late goals to seal the victory.
This has been a big year for the RSL academy. Center back Carlos Salcedo became the first graduate to break into the first team, where he has become a regular starter alongside Nat Borchers. Goalkeeper Lalo Fernandez has shown well in reserve play. And Benji Lopez, an 18-year-old forward, just signed a deal with the MLS club.
Last week, RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey offered a few thoughts on the academy:
"It’s good," he said. "Wee need to keep getting better. Our territory of Utah and Arizona is not rich. So far, every player we’ve signed has been from outside our own territory. The pinnacle will be when we start developing players from Utah and Arizona as well. I think we’re on the cusp of that. Our classes have a lot more depth. … I think we’re trending the right way, but we’ve got a lot of work to do."
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