SANDY, Utah – Real Salt Lake midfielder Sebastián Velásquez knows he has an opportunity in front of him.
With RSL's top two attacking midfielders out of the picture for the time being – Javier Morales is out four to six weeks while recovering from knee surgery and Luis Gil is off to the CONCACAF U-20 Championship – the young Colombian will have ample opportunity to show the coaches why he deserves more time on the field.
"Last year I was very nervous," Velásquez told MLSsoccer.com by telephone while at training camp in Irvine, Calif. "I was on a thin line between making the team or not. Now, this year, I feel like I'm more comfortable. I'm back with my family. We are all so close, I really do consider the team my family. I know the system and I what to expect and I think I am picking up my game.
"Last year, I just wanted to get a chance to see the field," he continued. "This year, I want to see the field a lot more, play a big role for this team. I think I can score goals, play a lot of minutes."
RSL coach Jason Kreis agrees that the young talent, who turns 22 on Monday, is going to see a bigger role, but it won't only be when Morales and Gil are out of action.
"We are going to have to give a few players a chance to step up," the coach told MLSsoccer.com. "Sebastián, even though it isn't his ideal position, will get a shot to show us what he can do.
"I don't think it is his ideal spot. He has the technical side to do it. He is very talented on the ball, but I think he would still be better in more a complimentary role," Kreis added. "He is just now getting a full understanding on how to defend, so I think with our diamond he is probably a little better suited to play out on the wing a little more."
Velásquez concurs with his coach that his defense is only now getting up to expectations.
"On the field, I have learned the system and play a lot faster, and especially defensively. I am beginning to play defense. Coming from my college, I never played defense there. It was always about attacking and every now and then I might come back a little to defend. If I want to play with this team, I have to play defense and I know what is expected of me that way."
Improving on defense has helped Velásquez's standing, but it's not the only thing he's doing to get himself noticed.
"Last year, I was always getting yelled at to 'be here,' or 'do it this way,'" he said. "This camp, it may sound strange, but I am one of the guys doing the yelling. Not meaning I am being mean or anything, it's just I understand the system so much better and we have a lot of new guys out there with us and I think I can help them. I want to try to help being a leader and I'll do anything I can to help the team."