Real Salt Lake continues to see dividends from a strong academy, announcing on Friday that it has signed defender Aaron Herrera. Herrera becomes the 14thhomegrown player to sign with RSL.

“It says a lot about all the coaches and everything that we had going on down at the academy,” Herrera said of the program built by Academy Director Martin Vasquez.

The right back spent three years in the RSL-Arizona Academy before continuing his playing careeer at the University of New Mexico.

Herrera told the Tribune that he originally hoped to play one year in college, but he now is glad he stayed for an extra two seasons. He said he watched his decision-making mature. He also was asked to play higher up the field — something RSL coach Mike Petke likes in his outside backs — and recorded a team-high five goals and five assists.

“I’ve been able to grow a lot more as a player, and definitely a lot more as a person,” he told the Tribune. “So now I just feel a lot more ready to go pro, and I feel that I’ll fit in to the environment a lot better than I would have two or three years ago.”

Herrera was one of five RSL academy products to be on the United States squad for the Under-20 World Cup this past year, advancing to the quarterfinals with RSL teammates Justen Glad, Danilo Acosta, Brooks Lennon and Sebastian Saucedo.

Herrera’s acquisition begins to fill the hole at right back left by injured Tony Beltran. Beltran is expected to be out until late August after undergoing two right knee surgeries this fall.

If Herrera does fill in for Beltran, the RSL defense could conceivably have matches in which three Academy products starting in the back four.

RSL trades for Taylor Peay

RSL also announced it has promoted Real Monarchs defender Taylor Peay to the first team. The Portland Timbers, who drafted Peay in 2014, had retained the right of first refusal to him (meaning they got first dibs if he returned to MLS), so RSL traded a third-round pick in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft for him. Peay, a Salt Lake City native, regularly started for the Monarchs team that claimed the USL Shield this season.

Preseason starts to take shape

Real Salt Lake is set to face LA Galaxy in the opening match of the Mobile Mini Sun Cup in Tucson, Ariz., on Feb. 3. Phoenix Rising FC and FC Tucson announced the schedule for the preseason tournament Friday. Real Salt Lake is one of 11 teams listed as participants. The tournament runs from Feb. 3 to Feb. 24.

Mobile Mini Sun Cup Schedule

February 3: LA Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake, 3:30 p.m.

February 3: Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders, 6 p.m.

February 10: TBD vs. Phoenix Rising FC, 7 p.m.

February 14: Phoenix Rising FC vs. Colorado Rapids, 6 p.m.

February 17: Portland Timbers vs. FC Dallas, Noon

February 17: Sporting Kansas City vs. Phoenix Rising FC, 3 p.m.

February 17: New England Revolution vs. FC Tucson, 4 p.m.

February 17: Houston Dynamo vs. New York Red Bulls, 6:15 p.m.

February 24: Teams TBD, 4 p.m.

February 24: Phoenix Rising FC vs Team TBD, 2 p.m.

February 24: Teams TBD, 6:15 p.m.