Sandy • For years, the Real Salt Lake faithful clamored for injected youth, for flash, for some pizzazz.
Now three matches into the season, the club, which still misses star playmaker Javier Morales, has it in young midfielders Luis Gil and Sebastian Velasquez.
Gil, 19, and Velasquez, 22, have been regular starters during RSL's 1-1-1 start and have injected that stylistic possession-type game coach Jason Kreis preaches.
"It's a formation, a style and a culture that you have to plug into," said captain Kyle Beckerman, "and they've been doing that well."
In Saturday's home opener against Colorado, Velasquez supplied energy on the defensive end, while routinely fending off several prodding Rapid defenders and being instrumental in the attack. Gil, who has starred with the U.S. U-20 team, didn't quit when he fought for a ball atop the Colorado box, a ball that eventually found its way to Alvaro Saborio for the tying goal.
"I think they've both had pretty strong performances," said Kreis, adding that the pair, while immensely talented, has a ways to go in terms of 90-minute consistency.
But the youngsters know that, and Velasquez is thankful his coach has given him and his midfield running mate a chance on a perennial Western Conference powerhouse.
"When your own teammates give you the confidence to be with the ball and make stuff happen … it helps build my confidence," he said.
Gil attributed the strong start by the similarities of skill sets he and Velasquez possess. He said both like to interchange on the field, and when needed, cover for the other when a player decides to try to make something happen in the offensive third.
"I feel as the season goes on," Gil said, "the chemistry is just going to get better."
Real Salt Lake fans and the organization would be in good shape if that holds true, as the team continues to recoup from an injury-filled offseason.
"They have nothing but upside," Beckerman said, shrugging his shoulders. "Sky's the limit."