Desert Diamond Rookie Report: RSL first-years buying in

Devon Sandoval

Photo Credit: 
Courtesy of Real Salt Lake

With the group stage of the Desert Diamond Cup complete, and start of the regular season less than 10 days away, coaches from all four teams in Tucson provided an update on their younger players’ transition to the professional level. Here's a look from RSL head coach Jason Kreis.

REAL SALT LAKE
Academy DF Carlos Salcedo (signed)
Rd. 1 pick MF John Stertzer (signed)
Rd. 2 pick FW Devon Sandoval (signed)

Salcedo – After switching from the Tigres youth system to Real Salt Lake’s late in 2011, the 19-year-old Mexican spent the last half of 2012 training with RSL. Now that he is under contract, Salcedo is pushing to be among the club’s top four center backs.

Kreis: “I think the benefit of him having spent the last six months with us shows pretty clearly, because he understands from Day 1 of preseason what is being asked. He’s taken a little bit of a leadership role, which says a lot for a 19-year-old and is also something that we need from anybody who’s going to be playing center back for us.”

WATCH: Stertzer's college highlights

Stertzer – Already signed to an MLS deal prior to the draft, Stertzer has seen regular minutes in the Real Salt Lake midfield and continued to show a nose for net with a cool finish in the late going against Seattle on Saturday.

Kreis: “He looks like he’s gaining more and more understanding of what’s being asked of him every single day. … I think he can move between the different [midfield] spots, and I think there’s even the potential that he can play the holding spot. We don’t look at young players and try to put them into a box automatically about where we think they’re going to end up in their career. We just try to develop them as players and RSL players, and that’s where he will be used this year: filling any hole that we need during training sessions or games.”

Sandoval – His signing was announced on Tuesday, and Sandoval will serve as an understudy to Alvaro Saborío. Comfortable with his back to goal and a good finisher, Sandoval still needs to improve on his consistency both in keeping possession and creating chances.

Kreis: “Sandoval has done really well. There are very, very few players like him in our country. He’s developed as a point forward, a guy that wants to play with his back to goal. He’s made his share of mistakes, and continues to have some lapses in focus and concentration when he gets balls: He needs to keep more. His percentage of balls played into him that are kept for the team needs to be extremely high, and we’re not quite there yet, but he’s getting there.”