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Real Salt Lake: After spurring U-20s to historic feats, RSL quartet out to translate success to first team

First Published      Last Updated Mar 08 2017 07:31 pm


Real Salt Lake » The CONCACAF U-20 title was a first for the U.S.

Sandy • Danilo Acosta was filled with nerves in the locker room of the Estadio Nacional in San Jose, Costa Rica. He stayed that way as he stared from midfield as his teammates took their penalty kicks in the 2017 CONCACAF U-20 Championship final against Honduras.

The 19-year-old Real Salt Lake academy product didn't blink when it was his turn. The long, lonely walk wasn't a familiar one.

The penalty the Honduran-born RSL midfielder/defender was about to take was his first competitive PK in his young career. The whistle blew and Acosta drilled the ball into the back of the net with ease, lifting the U.S. U-20 national team to another first.




No previous U.S. U-20 squad had won the CONCACAF Championship. No previous U.S. U-20 squad had defeated Mexico since 1986. This group did both. The Americans, headlined by four RSL first-teamers and academy products, were crowned champions on the left foot of Acosta, an added bonus after they already had punched their ticket to this summer's FIFA U-20 World Cup.

"Even though I am from Honduras — my family is from there, I was born there and everything — my goal was just to score," he said. "Even after I scored the goal, I didn't celebrate it because my dad told me not to celebrate to respect Honduras. It was a good feeling."

Justen Glad (20), Sebastian Saucedo (20), Brooks Lennon (19) and Acosta now return to RSL, where form and minutes will play crucial roles in whether they'll be selected for this summer's World Cup roster. Glad suffered a right leg injury in Sunday's final that is likely to keep him out of this weekend's match at Chicago.

Lennon finally is packing his bags to move to Utah, having returned to RSL this offseason on loan from Liverpool FC. The 19-year-old winger who scored four goals for the U.S. during the tournament was home in Arizona this week to make his initial move north. RSL coach Jeff Cassar said it will take time to get the U-20 crew acclimated after it spent a max of four days with the team in preseason.

"They're all very good players, and we'll get them mixed in as quick as possible," Cassar said.

Lennon's showing in Costa Rica only deepens an area of the roster stocked with youth at RSL. He's expected to contend for first-team minutes out wide behind Jordan Allen with Saucedo and fellow academy product Ricardo Velazco. Glad is a known commodity in MLS after 2016. It's up to the rest of the youngsters to make their mark.

"It wasn't easy there in CONCACAF either," Saucedo said, "so I think it's just the same thing here. It's working hard. I don't think anything's going to come easy."

The Park City-raised attacking player spent last year on loan at Veracruz in Mexico, but he said he's elated to "be back home." Saucedo, 19, at one point was choosing between playing for the U.S. or Mexico national teams. Being able to snap that 31-year-long streak was particularly rewarding, he said.

"I think, first of all, we qualified to the World Cup," Saucedo said, "which was most important for the group. And then after having a tough loss against Panama, where everyone was upset, a lot of U.S. reporters were criticizing us and we bounced back and won everything."

Acosta started every match but one at left back for the U-20s. Coming up as a defensive midfielder out of the RSL academy, he translated well on the international stage. Cassar said Acosta will vie for time at left back with RSL.

"What happened with the U-20s is already in the past," Acosta said. "Now we're back to work. I'm excited. I'm looking forward to this year — try to get some minutes in and do my best."

ckamrani@sltrib.com Twitter: @chriskamrani

 

AT A GLANCE

From RSL to U.S.

RSL’s presence with U.S. U-20s at CONCACAF Championship led to the Americans’ first win over Mexico in 31 years and first CONCACAF Championship title after beating Honduras 5-3 in PKs. The U.S. will play in the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in South Korea starting May 20.

Justen Glad, 20 » Center back

Brooks Lennon, 19 » Forward

Danilo Acosta, 19 » Defender

Sebastian Saucedo, 20 » Forward

RSL at Chicago

Saturday, noon

TV » KMYU


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