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Enzo Martinez came in to his first Real Salt Lake training camp with high expectations and, by his own admission, in terrible shape.

"I don't think I could have done worse than my first year," the 22-year-old said earlier this year after playing in an exhibition win over BYU.

A season removed from a disappointing rookie season, RSL's 2012 first-round draft pick has yet to play a minute with the first team. He's made the 18 only once, on the final game of last season, but Martinez has shown improvement. By all accounts, he came in to camp this year in terrific shape and he's made progress while logging 561 minutes in seven reserve games this year.

"I feel a lot back to my old self," he said after the BYU match. "I feel really comfortable. I understand the system better. I understand the players' roles much better."

On Tuesday, the team announced Martinez has been sent to the Carolina RailHawks of the North American Soccer League on a short-term loan. Martinez will be about 20 miles away from Chapel Hill, N.C., where he played collegiately.

The timing and the move seem to make good sense.

While Martinez has shown progress, he's still not a threat to break in to the 18 right now. In reserve play, he's been used often as a defensive midfielder, a position firmly held by captain Kyle Beckerman and established backup in Yordany Alvarez.

And after a heavy reserve schedule to start the season (seven matches since the beginning of March), the RSL reserves slow down. The squad won't play a match until May 20 at Chivas USA.

Martinez needs minutes on the field, and RSL cannot give him that right now.

Asked earlier this year what his goals were for the season, Martinez said: "To help the team as much as possible. Obviously we all want to play and be a starter. That's everyone's goal. That's my goal. But I'm taking it day by day and see what happens."

Today, that means heading back to Carolina.

­— Aaron Falk

Twitter: @aaronfalk