Friday, May 29, 2009

Real Salt Lake Youth Head to Madrid


untitled Real Salt Lake’s U-18 Youth club travels on Friday to Madrid for their participation in the JRS World Cup Comunidad de Madrid Tournament.  They achieved participation in this tournament as a result of winning the SUM Cup last summer in dramatic fashion winning on penalty shots 4-2 against DC United

This tournament is considered to be the “unofficial” crowning of a world youth club champion.  In the previous four years of existence Boca Juniors (Argentina) and Sao Paulo (Brazil) have each won it twice.  DC United (twice) and the NY Red Bulls have each represented the MLS in the tournament, and Real Salt Lake’s Youth program should be commended for this exclusive achievement.


While Real Madrid, Boca Juniors and Barcelona are probably the most recognizable names in this tournament, Real Salt Lake finds itself in arguably the toughest grouping. 

Espanyol is one of the top clubs in Europe.  They have won a number of European teams.  According to coach Greg Maas they “have very good team speed.  They are very technical and dangerous, but they also have a very good physical presence.”  Espanyol also has 3 players who are currently under contract with the first team in La Liga. 

Belgrade is rated as one of the highest youth programs in Europe after Ajax which sets the standard for youth programs.  Maas says “their under-20’s and under-18’s are rated as one of the top youth sides in all of Europe.  They are very big, very physical and very technical in nature.  Tactically very well disciplined and organized.”

River Plate is one of the storied programs in Argentina.  And anyone who has followed soccer in recent years understands that Argentina has been producing incredible youth players year-after-year.  They will be a force to be reckoned with.



Real Salt Lake is guaranteed 3 matches in the tournament against each of the teams in their group.  Their first match against Belgrade on June 1st will be held at the 7,900 seat Estadio Municipal Santo Domingo in Alorcon (about 16km outside of Madrid).  This should be a good test to see how well the team can compete at this level.  

Their 2nd match will be on June 3rd against Espanyol at the 2,000 seat Estadio Municipal Matapinoneras in San Sebastian de los Reyes (about 20km outside of Madrid). 

RSL’s 3rd match in group play will come on June 5th against River Plate at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano which is part of the “Real Madrid City” (Cuidad Deportiva Real Madrid) and is located in Valdebebas just outside of the city.  It is the site for Real Madrid’s reserve team, Real Madrid Castilla.  This stadium was built in 2006 originally with 6,000 seats but was scheduled for expansion to 24,000 seats.  The status of this expansion is unclear.

If RSL should advance past the group stages, their quarterfinal match would occur on June 7th. 



Technical Staff

Brian Johnson (Technical Director): Real Salt Lake’s assistant coach serves as the technical director for this team.  According to BJ, his role is to help with roster selection, make various technical decisions, consult with the coaching staff and help ensure that things are done the RSL way with this team. 

Greg Maas (Head Coach): Greg is the State’s Technical Director with the Utah Youth Soccer Association.  He plays a pivotal role in helping to develop Real Salt Lake’s youth academy program, and Greg was a goalkeeper with the Portland Timbers.

Eric Landon (Assistant Coach): Technical Director with Utah Rush Soccer and goalkeeper coach with the Olympic Development Program (ODP).

Brad Colton (Trainer): Was part of the staff with the team last year in the SUM Cup.



RSL’s entry into this Cup gathered together for the first time on Thursday as some of the players arrived into town just the night before.  Many of the players, of course, had played together last summer, but the SUM Cup was a 5-game set in a short time span.  For that tournament they were in a similar position of assembling just prior to the tournament.  On the other hand, most of their opponents have full-time youth systems and the players have been playing together for months.  This will obviously put RSL at a disadvantage.

According to Coach Maas, this team is very talented.  “we have very good individual technical ability.  We are very disciplined.  We have incredible team speed and work ethic.  We have players that are very fit and committed to the game and work both ends of the game.”

However, “we know that we aren’t going to be able to out-possess our opponents.  So when we do get the ball we are going to have to be very effective.”



Last year, DC United (who has a fully-funded, year-round academy) struggled against the higher level of competition at this tournament.  Their closest result was 8-1.  According to Maas, “we are an unknown and we may be able to surprise people.  We expect to be a highly-competitive and play attractive soccer.”

However, before you think that there will be a “happy to be there” mentality, Mass warns that these are highly skilled, and highly competitive players.  They are there with the idea of competing.

“We’re extremely excited, and extremely proud of this group.  I’m extremely proud of the quality of players that we have with this group.”


Team Roster


The group is similar to the one that won the SUM Cup last summer with a few differences.  There are a couple of younger players from that U-17 team that will not be participating, and there are two players from that team out with injury.  In addition, the roster size is larger for these tournament (20 versus 18).  This is a ‘91 team meaning everyone is born after Aug 1991.

Players to Watch:

1. James Rogers: By far the standout of the MLS Cup tournament as he scored 7 goals in 5 matches, and earned Cup MVP honors.  He was also the youngest player at that tournament.  As a Sierra Leone native, it took a tremendous effort to get him a visa to travel to Madrid because of his refugee status. 

2. Mike D’Arrigo: Composed keeper who did well in the MLS Cup and was a big part of their success.

3. Adrian Saldana: Midfielder who had an extended look with RSL’s first team a year ago.

4. Danny Mwanga: Oregon State standout.  PAC-10 player of the year as a freshman.  A native of the Congo, he also required a visa to travel to Madrid.  Could pair well with Rogers to form a productive strike duo.






1 Mike D'Arrigo * Tucson, AZ   6.20.91 George Mason University
18 Jason Dodson Lake Oswego, OR   4.29.91 Stanford University
2 Taylor Bowlin * Pleasant View, UT R DEF 1.18.91 UNLV
4 Carlos Cruz * Salt Lake City, UT C DEF 1.25.91 SLCC
6 Kodiac Gamble * Tucson, AZ L/R DEF 12.14.91 High School Senior
19 Josh Kealamakia * Syracuse, UT C DEF 1.20.92 High School Senior
20 Jon Pearman * Glendale, AZ C DEF 12.16.90 Seattle Pacific University
3 Taylor Peay * Salt Lake City, UT C DEF 9.5.91 High School Senior
16 Colin Anderson Tucson, AZ MID 1.28.91 University of Portland
8 Trevor Henderson * Orem, UT R MF 8.5.91 BYU
5 Mike Hodgen * Centerville, UT D CMF 3.20.91 Oregon State University
13 Nick Marshall Tucson, AZ R MF/FWD 8.28.90 UNLV
15 Tommy Martin * Park City, UT D CMF 3.20.91 Oregon State University
7 Karson Payton * Provo, UT L MF 1.1.92 High School Senior
10 Adrian Saldana * Avondale, AZ A CMF 2.2.91  
14 Donny Toia Tucson, AZ L MF 5.28.92 High School Senior
9 TJ East * Citrus Springs, FL   7.25.91 Wake Forest (HS Sr.)
17 Joey Layton* Tampa, FL   6.10.91 UNCG
12 Danny Mwanga Oregon State   7.17.91 Oregon State University
11 James Rogers * Salt Lake City, UT   6.27.93 High School Junior