Real Salt Lake’s David Ochoa saga has come to an end.
After a tumultuous MLS season with no appearances for the club, the 21-year-old goalkeeper is being traded to D.C. United in exchange for allocation money, the Washington Post reports.
Just a year ago, Ochoa appeared to be the future at goalie for RSL, helping the club reach the Western Conference Finals. But after sustaining a preseason injury, losing his starting job and falling out of favor — going so far as to claim on social media that he was no longer allowed to train with the first team — RSL and Ochoa are parting ways.
Asked about Ochoa’s falling out with RSL on Thursday, head coach Pablo Mastroeni cited maturity issues and the “skirting” of team rules.
“We’ve got team rules, we’ve got club rules and he was kind of skirting those a little bit,” the coach told ESPN 700. “But if you’re a pro you have to be treated like a pro.”
Mastroeni said he believes the rise of American soccer academies has produced talented players who have missed out on the chance to mature in a college setting.
“There are going to be a lot of situations that arise over the next few years where young players, kids, grow up at a club and bypass the college experience. There’s a lot of personal growth that takes place” within the college experience, Mastroeni told ESPN 700. “Now they’re in the soccer system and you’re going from a 16-year-old kid and you’re in a locker room with 33-year-old guys who have four kids and that are doing this for a living and require and expect a certain amount of professionalism from the young kids. ...
“It’s a big part of his learning curve of how to develop into a mature pro. It’s not a sleight against David. It’s a natural byproduct” of the new system.
Mastroeni said Ochoa met with his teammates on Thursday afternoon to say goodbye.
“We had a really good talk about taking this and using it as something he can lean on,” Mastroeni said. “I think him going to D.C. is great. There’s nothing personal with David. ... I think he’s a great young man who’s doing a lot of good for his family. ... This experience will help him progress and hopefully be a great goalkeeper for the long-term.”
Ochoa is in the last year of his contract.
The amount of allocation money involved in the deal has not been publicly reported. The Post reports that United will pay a portion of the cost immediately and would send additional money to RSL if Ochoa signs a new contract with D.C.
Ochoa has been unafraid to make waves during his MLS career.
Last August, he chose to become a member of the Mexican National Team, penning an essay in the Players Tribune explaining his decision to spurn the U.S. national team. He earned the ire of longtime MLS coach Adrian Heath when he kicked a ball at Minnesota United fans after the conclusion of a game last season. On the field, Ochoa led a shutout effort in a win over the Seattle Sounders, earning adoration from RSL fans for frustrating opponents with his on-field antics.