Homegrown defender Carlos Salcedo continues to be a pleasant surprise for Real Salt Lake

SANDY, Utah — Before the MLS season began, few thought the quiet Homegrown signee from Mexico would be Real Salt Lake’s starting center back at any point during the 2013 season. Carlos Salcedo had the pedigree, yes, but he’s just 19, and was well down the depth chart.

Then injuries to Chris Schuler and Kwame Watson-Siriboe took their toll, and now Salcedo’s name is on the team sheet every week. Circumstances may have put him there, but performance has kept him there.

“It is always the same,” he said. “I always try to put in a full effort, and I look at it as the team is the star. I feel bad for my [injured] teammates. We are like a family and we need to go on and play for them, play for each other.”

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Coming into the season, Schuler was penciled in as the starter alongside Watson-Siriboe until veteran leader Nat Borchers could return from offseason quad surgery. Schuler got the nod in the first 12 games of the season, but a sore left foot has left him in a walking boot for the last five MLS games and out of US Open Cup action.

Watson-Siriboe took advantage of his opportunity at that point, playing in Schuler’s stead. He’d started seven MLS games along with an Open Cup game, but he is now out for the season with a torn ACL.

That leaves Salcedo, who signed with the RSL Academy after being released by Tigres UANL, and second-year player Aaron Maund. While Maund has struggled in his brief run, Salcedo has hardly put a foot wrong in his four MLS starts and is now firmly entrenched as the partner alongside Borchers.

“I need to keep humble,” said Salcedo following training last week. “I think the most important thing is to work hard. As long as you are working really hard, the soccer will come. That is not something I need to worry about. I just need to go out every training session and I think things will be just fine.”

So what is it that’s made him so sure-footed at a position that young players rarely excel at?

“I think mentally I am good,” said the rookie. “I don’t think of myself as the youngest player out on the field. I think of myself as just another player, one of the team. I also think I am pretty good with the ball. That gives [head coach Jason Kreis] confidence in me.”

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After starting against Seattle over the weekend and helping shut down their powerful duo of Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins, Salcedo feels he is really beginning to find his stride – which is welcome news with the Open Cup quarterfinals coming on Wednesday night (9:30 pm ET; LIVE chat on MLSsoccer.com).

“When you play well against those type of players, your confidence level goes up,” the defender said afterward. “My confidence is growing. It is pretty solid.”

Salcedo isn’t one to look at his numbers, but there is one that he would like to keep intact.

“I was checking out my stats, and we haven’t lost a game I started,” joked Salcedo. “I want to keep that up.”

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