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Real Salt Lake: RSL's rocky start continues, but the kids proved they can play

Published March 19, 2017 4:50 pm

Liverpool loanee Lennon, Park City native Saucedo enlivened RSL's attack in loss to Galaxy on Saturday.
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Sandy • Craig Waibel stood on the concourse of the fourth floor at Rio Tinto Stadium Saturday night and didn't hold back when asked about the expectations surrounding this infusion of youth. The Real Salt Lake general manager said the club has always preached both development and opportunity when it comes to its pipeline of young players.

So before Brooks Lennon and Sebastian Saucedo made their 2017 debuts in the 2-1 loss to the L.A. Galaxy, Waibel said the last part of the transition is always the most difficult.

And that if the slew of youngsters on this year's RSL first-team roster — eight homegrown players in all — are to rise to the occasion, they have to not be caught off guard, not to play timid, not to let the chance pass them by.

"We need to be building," Waibel said. "We need to watch some maturity happen, and it needs to be tangible."

The result was a home loss, but there were definitely building blocks laid. Lennon, 19, and Saucedo, 20, did not shy away from the bright lights that hit them when they joined the starting lineup. The young attacking talents stood up and showed that they're ready to contribute and ready to push for minutes.

In the locker room before the match, RSL midfielder Luke Mulholland said veterans were telling them to "express themselves" in the match, to take defenders 1-on-1, to create the way they know how to do.

"I thought they did an exceptional job," Mulholland said. "I'm disappointed that we weren't able to get all three points for them."

RSL's start (0-2-1) to 2017 has been way too much mixing and matching for Jeff Cassar's taste. The injuries keep on coming. Joao Plata (hip) and Jordan Allen (quad) were out, so the two youngsters stepped in as the next options on the revolving team depth chart: Lennon, on loan in 2017 from Liverpool, and Saucedo, who grew up in Park City.

"Obviously we need to get into a good, solid rotation of players," Cassar said. "We're rotating for need and necessity, not because we want to do it tactically."

Saucedo's flair on the ball caused issues for the L.A. backline early. His pinpoint third-minute cross found Lennon at the 6-yard mark, but the volley attempt sliced wide, thwarting what would've been a moment to remember. Lennon routinely chased down long balls sent his way and whipped in dangerous crosses toward forward Yura Movsisyan.

"I thought they were phenomenal, honestly," Movsisyan said. "We had, as a team, high expectations for them. And I think that they delivered and every time they got the ball, they look to go forward and beat their player and that's what you want from your wide players."

Unfortunately, the sample size is quite small.

A second yellow to midfielder Kyle Beckerman forced RSL to hunker down and deal with the disadvantage for the last half, changing the dynamic of what Lennon and Saucedo brought when RSL was operating at full strength for much of the first half.

"I liked everything about what they did," Cassar said.

Did they do enough to earn another shot next week?

RSL will be without Beckerman (suspension) and two more starters in goalkeeper Nick Rimando (U.S.) and Albert Rusnák (Slovakia), off on World Cup qualifying duty with their respective national teams. Without their central playmaker in Rusnák, RSL's style at the New York Red Bulls next Saturday will be different, Movsisyan said.

Which isn't a bad thing if the youngsters can build off what they put on display in their first impression.

"I think the [young] guys that played today stepped up, showed up," he said.

ckamrani@sltrib.com Twitter: @chriskamrani —

Real Salt Lake at N.Y. Red Bulls

P Saturday, 2 p.m. MDT







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