Real Salt Lake were pleasantly surprised when University of North Carolina midfielder Enzo Martinez fell to them at No. 17 in the MLS SuperDraft on Thursday.
“At 17, we had no business getting Enzo Martinez,” GM Garth Lagerwey told reporters via conference call after the draft. “I have no idea how he fell that far. And when he was there, we were giddy that we were going to get him at 17.”
With Martinez, the squad feels like they have a talented player on the field that they can slot in as an outside midfielder in the diamond formation.
Said Lagerwey: “Flat out, he’s got some bite. He can cover some ground, and he really wanted to play for us. There’s nobody that’s a more perfect fit for us than Enzo Martinez. We absolutely loved him in college, and he’s an RSL player. That’s the easiest way to put it."
The Uruguayan-born player also impressed the team in other ways.
“He’s an awesome kid,” Lagerwey said. “He’s a very humble kid. He comes from a background that we have found makes for hungry, combative, competitive kids. He has not been given a lot in life. He’s had to earn it. We put a tremendous amount of value in that, and that came out in his interview. He desperately wanted to play for us. When you see stuff like that, you definitely want to go get that.”
Martinez felt equally delighted with the selection.
“It’s absolutely awesome,” Martinez said on the conference call. “I feel like I’m at the right place. I think it’s a true blessing to say that I’m a player for Real Salt Lake.”
Real Salt Lake added two left-footed players in the second round with Diogo de Almeida, a left back from SMU, and Sebastian Velasquez, another midfielder from Spartanburg Methodist College, a junior college program. Velasquez and Martinez actually played on the same club team as youth players in South Carolina.
How these pieces fit into the RSL system remains to be seen. Real Salt Lake players will report for physical testing later this month.
“Everybody feels pretty good today,” Lagerwey said. “The real question is, how do we feel in a month?”
WATCH: Enzo Martinez speaks with MLSsoccer.com