Yordany Álvarez rises from obscurity to necessity at RSL

Yordany Alvarez

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SANDY, Utah — With Kyle Beckerman serving a suspension, Real Salt Lake will rely on Yordany Álvarez – a player on loan from third-division USL Pro champions Orlando City – to patrol the defensive half of the midfield over the final two matches of the season. 

That begins Friday night in a high-stakes matchup at Colorado for the Rocky Mountain Cup (10:30 pm ET, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes). Not a bad gig for a player who wasn’t even on head coach Jason Kreis’ radar earlier this year.

Álvarez, who has appeared in three games this year, was in fact a find of the RSL scouting system, led by assistant coach Jeff Cassar. Kreis admitted that Álvarez’s initial outing with the squad against the New York Red Bulls on Sept. 21 was pretty special.

“In the New York match, he really struggled, I thought, for the first 15 minutes, and then was incredible for 75 minutes,” said Kreis. “I mean not just good – incredible.

“Since then he’s had some good moments. He’s exactly like the rest of the team. He’s had some ups and some downs, even within matches. Ultimately we want better, and I think there is better out of him.”

Álvarez feels like he’s taking good advantage of the move from USL to MLS play, but he admits that he’s had to adjust to a couple of things: playing in the RSL diamond, and getting used to the altitude of the Rockies. 

“In the USL, I’m used to playing the flat midfield, where one could go forward, and one would stay back,” the 26-year-old Cuban defector told MLSsoccer.com through an interpreter. “I’m not used to having nobody behind my back where I can always just run forward. But I’m making the transition pretty well.

“I thought I did well against New York,” he continued. “I thought I didn’t do too badly against LA. I’m adjusting to the altitude and I think that day by day I’m getting better.”

Álvarez isn’t sure of his future beyond this year, but admits that he wants to remain at this level. And it appears that he’s gotten the attention of Kreis.

“Two months ago, I didn’t know who Yordany Álvarez was,” Kreis said. “Take him away from our team right now and things look a lot different – I don’t know who we’re playing in that position.”