As told to Ben Wille
- I grew up in Rochester, N.Y. I went down from Rochester to the U.S. U-17 residency program in Florida early in 2011, and coming out of the program I was looking for a place to go so I went to RSL’s Academy down in Casa Grande. I spent a year and a half there, and in that time I played a little bit with the RSL Reserves and met with the coaching staff. And then before joining RSL I spent one semester at the University of Virginia.
- I went to the Academy because I was looking for a place where you can play every single day at a high level and in a good environment – there aren’t a lot of places like that in the U.S. So when I was coming out of residency I was looking for a place that could offer me something like that, and RSL had the only residential academy in the country. So for me it was a no brainer.
- They have a great coaching staff down there at the Academy – Freddy Juarez and Tony Bruce – and they play a good style of football which is the same way we play here. Playing there helped me get stronger and better technically, and it made the transition from playing with them to playing with the Reserves easy for me.
- Though I only signed a month ago, this is actually my third preseason that I’ve gone through with RSL, so I feel very prepared. There weren’t a lot of shocks for me because I knew what to expect. It was important for me to go through those before actually signing so I knew what I was getting into.
- I had a chance to sign with RSL ahead of the 2013 season, but I decided to go to Virginia for a season instead. My parents and I are really into education and Virginia offered me an opportunity to get a great education at a great university. And I’m able to go back there whenever I can or whenever I’m available. It was a big thing for me and my family to make sure I took care of that before I really started to get into my career.
- It was a great experience for me going to UVA – the coaching staff there was great and we made a good run in the College Cup. They [University of Virginia] play a schedule where you play two games a week and it’s a grind for those three months and that helped me prepare for this physically and mentally.
- As for my preferred position, that’s kind of tough – the system we play with is a diamond midfield and we’re really good at it and with that formation there is not as much width coming out of the midfield. I like playing wide so I think in the long run I’ll excel as an outside back here.
- My first goal for this year is to just get myself in that group that is consistently making the 18. If I can make the 18 then I’ll try and make my way into the starting 11. But I’m going to stay grounded and stay realistic. I know I have to work hard just to get into the 18, and there are a lot of good players here so it’s not going to be easy.
- To get away from the game I watch more of the game – I don’t think I really get away from it. If I’m taking a break physically just to get my legs back, I’m probably watching an Arsenal game or googling Arsenal news. So I don’t think I really get away from the game. If I do, I’m usually hanging out with my friends and enjoying my family.
- I just got my first apartment – I’m rooming with [RSL forward] Benji Lopez, who I know from the Academy and the national team. It’s a little bit different out here than it is in Rochester and at the University of Virginia, but I’m looking forward to it out here. I spent three or four weeks here in the summer and liked it. I also found a barber shop out here my first week so that was important.
As told to Sam Stejskal
- The last couple of weeks have been pretty hectic after getting my first games. A lot of my friends that I haven’t talked to in a while have been reaching out to me, I had my parents fly in last minute for the Sporting KC game, my in-laws came in, so it’s been pretty hectic, but it’s been fun too. I didn’t want to go the whole season and not feel like I was a part of the team and didn’t contribute in any way, so to get the opportunity to contribute is something that I’ve really appreciated.
- After I made my debut in the Dallas game it was pretty wild. Leading up to Kansas City I was just doing my best to kind of focus. I was on edge a little bit all week and I think I got my wife pretty annoyed with me, but it’s starting to settle in. This week I definitely feel a lot more comfortable; I’m not on pins and needles this week the way I was last week.
- It was tough not getting any games for four or five months and then getting thrown in there. I mean it still is tough; I have big shoes to fill with Nick and Josh. It’s kind of funny because I hadn’t been playing much in Reserve games either, so I hadn’t really gotten many minutes at all and just to get my first 90 minutes with RSL against a MLS team in a game where its first-place vs. first-place, sold-out stadium, and then to have everything go the way it did and the end to happen the way it did, I feel like I experienced at least five months worth of emotion in about 90 minutes.
- While it’s definitely been pretty crazy, I’m just appreciative that the staff trusts me enough to throw me into that situation. To be able to contribute to the team in a positive manner – which I feel like I’ve done so far – is something I’ve really, really appreciated.
- The support from the fans has definitely been incredible. I think coming in at Dallas and making a great save probably had something to do with that, because I can’t imagine the expectations were that high originally. But the team support as well has been really what has been helping me get through this. Nick has been reaching out to me a bunch, telling me to keep calm and play my game. Josh has been really supportive as well, which is obviously tough in his situation. And all the teammates have really shown a lot of faith in me. That they feel comfortable with me back there means everything. The support from really the whole RSL family has been pretty incredible, actually.
- Where I was in preseason and where I am now I think that I’m such a better ‘keeper. A lot of that is a credit to Nick and Josh, just watching them train, picking their brains every chance I can. Obviously working with [Goalkeeper Coach Jeff Cassar] has been great as well, but to be able to see these two guys up close and personal every day for five months, I’ve learned so much from them.
- We’re obviously in a pretty weird goalie situation here with four goalies on the roster. Josh has been a starter in this league for a long time, Nick is obviously the best goalie in the league and then there’s Lalo and I, so the goalkeeper situation I think had a chance to be pretty awkward and unsupportive because everyone’s competing for a certain spot. Thankfully, it’s been the opposite of that and I think that speaks really highly to the type of people that Nick and Josh both are.
- Honestly, coming out of college, I thought not making RSL and going to the minors was a huge setback. You don’t really know how hard it is to make it to this level right out of school. I was first-team All-American my junior year, I went overseas a couple of times and did really well, so I thought things were going to come pretty easy, to be honest and to go down to the minors right away and get drafted in the Supplemental Draft and not taken on the first day was a huge wakeup call. But it was a blessing in disguise. I went down to the Tampa Bay Rowdies and got 50+ games and gained a ton of experience. Obviously I got to stay in my hometown for two extra years, and that was awesome – playing professional soccer in your hometown, it doesn’t really get any better than that. So it was huge, I owe the NASL and the Rowdies a lot. Being able to get those games, playing one or two games every week for eight months was huge for my experience and I really think that it helped me get to the point I am now, even if just in the fact that I feel comfortable in the net in a game situation. The game Saturday was probably my 60th career professional game including the NASL; it’s a lot different when you’re playing in your 60th compared to if that was my first start as a pro.
- I’m a huge Tampa Bay sports fan, so any chance I get I’m watching those teams in action. I have a Slingbox hooked up to the TV in my parents’ house, so I’ve been watching a lot of Rays baseball. I’m also spending a lot of time taking my dog to different trails and things like that. I’m trying to get a little bit of Utah life, the whole outdoors life, see what that’s like. Off the field, I just spend a lot of time with my wife. When the guys are getting together, I hang out with the guys, a lot of the single guys, so I’m sure my wife appreciates that. But I’ve just been trying to dive into Utah and getting used to how life is out here.
- I listen to all kinds of music; really it depends on my mood. But I am a country fan and I was 100 percent planning on going to go the Jason Aldean concert this weekend at Rio Tinto Stadium. I went to that concert actually twice in Tampa and had a great time. Obviously I’d rather be in New York with the team, though, and I’m happy I’ll be there this Saturday. But when I saw Jason Aldean coming and that we were away I was pretty excited about getting the chance to see him again. The plan is for my wife to go and take some videos for me, though.
As told to Sam Stejskal
- I come from a family of soccer players. My Dad played for Atlas in Mexico before a knee injury ended his career. My great-grandfather played for Chivas Guadalajara, and they won like six titles in a row while he was there. My Dad’s uncle, Hugo Salcedo, actually played for the U.S. at the 1972 Olympic Games. Editor’s Note: Jorge Salcedo – Hugo Salcedo’s son and Carlos’s first-cousin, once removed – played in MLS from 1996-2000, earned three caps with the U.S. national team and is the current head coach at UCLA. Jorge Salcedo coached current RSL defender Tony Beltran at UCLA in 2006 and 2007.
- When I was younger, I played for Chivas [Guadalajara’s] academy. I spent two years there, but eventually moved to Tigres’s youth team when [current Chivas Sporting Director] Dennis Te Kloese moved from Chivas to Tigres. I was at Tigres for almost three years. While I was there, we went to Dallas Cup, and that’s where [RSL-Arizona Academy Director of Soccer] Martin Vasquez scouted me and invited me to come see RSL. At that time, I didn’t have a contract, and didn’t want to re-sign with Tigres, so then I decided to go to the RSL-Arizona Academy and try something new.
- My Dad and Martin have actually known each other for a long time. They got to know each other at Atlas; when my Dad retired, Martin was just getting to the team. When I got here, that’s when my Dad said that he knew a coach at RSL.
- I was at the RSL-Arizona Academy for about eight months. The academy was good. Basically, you wake up, go to school, and after that you have everything you need to become a soccer player. You have daily practices, weight-lifting, you have such a great coaching staff – it’s pretty big-time.
- After I graduated from the Academy last summer, I had offers from three Mexican teams – one of them was Santos Laguna. But I spoke with my Dad and my agent, and I didn’t want to go down to the same atmosphere down in Mexico. I wanted to try something else here in MLS, so I came here last July and began practicing with the team.
- Coach Jason [Kreis] believed in me, and I think that was a big step for me to take this chance – if the coach believes in you, that’s a good point for you. That’s what made me come here. [General Manager] Garth Lagerwey also was here to talk to me, and I think that was good for me. But what really was huge was already practicing with the team for six months and playing in Reserve games last year.
- My life changed a lot this year, because I’ve been getting playing time with the first-team. At the beginning of the preseason, they were telling me that I would be playing on the Reserve team, but when RSL first told me that I’d be playing, I was excited that I got the opportunity. I’d like to thank Garth, Bill, all those guys that helped me to become a better soccer player, and made my dream come true.
- I think I’ve been getting more and more experience each game I’m playing, and I think it’s a hard league. It’s going to help me get to the next step; to my next goal, which is going to Europe. I think MLS is a good league for defenders, because you get to play against hungry, big-time players like Keane, Henry, Martins and others that have already made a career [in Europe]. You see really good young players, too.
- [RSL goalkeeper] Lalo Fernandez and I used to be roommates, but I moved out like a month ago. It was a good experience, but now I think that we’ve decided to go separate ways, and that’s good at the end of the day. We’re still good friends – he’s one of my best friends – and nothing has changed. It was a good experience to live with another player, hanging out with him every day. Right now I live with a family that I met over here last year. They’re from Colombia, and I like it a lot to live with them. They’re such a good family, and they’re supportive of me.
- I love Utah. I like that everything is super-chill. For me, I’m not the type of player who likes to go out in crazy cities and all those things. I love living here, and I want to live here after I retire.
As told to Sam Stejskal
- The way I spend my time has kind of evolved a lot in the last few months because I just bought a house here. I’ve been learning how to become a responsible homeowner and seeing how much work there is to do around the house. It’s been fun, it’s a lot of work, but it’s rewarding work because I’m putting it into something that I value, that I care about. It’s kind of funny remembering kicking the soccer ball around my parents’ house, kicking it against the wall, breaking things. I mean they were saints. That must have driven them crazy because any time someone drops something on the floor and doesn’t pick it up it drives me nuts.
- Outside of that the majority of the way I spend my time, my biggest hobby or pastime is reading. It’s kind of nice that what I do for a profession allows me a lot of time to read. It’s something I grew up doing, something I’ll always do.
- Picking out a favorite book is tough. I have favorite authors, but that changes too. A lot of times the last book I read is my favorite book. I just finished re-reading The Great Gatsby; I wanted to do that before the movie came out. Right before that was The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton and before that I read Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov.
- Two of my best friends are U.S. Olympic speed skating hopefuls Jonathan Garcia and Matt Hickson. They’re both long track skaters and this year is an Olympic qualifying year. Jonathan does the 1,000 and 1,500 meters and Matt does the 500, he’s a sprinter. The trials are at the end of December; Jonathan actually would’ve qualified with his times from last year had it been an Olympic qualifying year.
- Jonathan and I are actually roommates. It’s interesting because we’re both athletes, we’re both competing towards a common goal but it’s different because his sport is individual and mine is more tea-oriented. Obviously we get along famously, but I take a lot from his training regimen, dietary stuff that he’s really into, and try to incorporate that into my life. It’s great living with another athlete because we have that common ground of both wanting to take care of ourselves.
- I’ve kind of kept this under wraps, but I performed at Ballet West here in Salt Lake in December 2011. Robbie Russell and Nat Borchers were rehabbing from surgeries and they were rehabbing with Ballet West Principal Michael Bearden. The three of them became good friends and I was very close with Robbie and Nat and I are very close so I became friends with Michael through those two. The Ballet does a couple of performances of The Nutcracker and then they do a spoof of it and this particular year, the spoof was sports themed. He asked me if I wanted to be a part of it and I said sure. I thought it’d be fun, something outside of the box and something where I’d get to hang around with pretty girls, to be honest. I went and saw them perform and I was blown away by their athleticism, by their grace and everything so I wanted to see how they trained, hang out with them and get to know their sport. It actually ended up being a lot more than I thought I’d signed up for. We did a full-on three-minute routine that Michael choreographed and it was like a Spanish dance that incorporated me juggling a ball with two ballerinas around me. I have video, but I’ll never show it to anybody, though I think I actually showed Chris Schuler once… But yeah, it was tons of fun. I’ve never been so nervous, not even for soccer games.
- I was a history major initially in college. It was tough, I was so young – entering college I was just 17 – and so focused on soccer that I just didn’t really think about it, to be honest. I just didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life outside of soccer and so that kind of seemed like a safe avenue, a lot of the other guys on the team were doing it and I like history so at the time it seemed practical. But then after I got a little bit older and started to think about the future a little bit more, I just realized, why don’t I just stick with what I love to do outside of soccer? So I came back to English. It made sense. So I’m going to the University of Utah now to finish up my degree. I went on a bit of a hiatus when the National Team stuff came up this winter, but I’m hoping to get back in soon and finish up the year I have left.
- It was pretty exciting how quickly everything happened with the National Team this winter. The season ended and I didn’t expect it, but a few days before Christmas I found out that I’d be going to the biggest camp of my life. It was so much fun playing with the guys, just being in a situation with a lot of my peers from around the league. At a MLS-based camp everyone has the same goals, you’re there, you’re competing, you’re flying around trying to impress so it was really fun. The trainings were fantastic, it was really demanding and it was cool to be involved with the National Team, especially since Kyle Beckerman was there.It meant the world to me that he was in camp, he’s such a great guy and a great leader so that really helped. Then camp came and went and I thought I held my own and I was pleased with the effort I put in. When I got called into the last qualifying camp because there were a couple of injuries, to know that I was just outside and so close was a really good feeling. It’s great that I got called in for those, but I have to keep focusing on the things that got me there in the first place and hopefully I can get back.
- I kind of go back and forth on whether I want to stay in soccer after my playing career ends. It’s tough, that’s one thing that keeps me up at night and I’m sure it keeps a lot of soccer players up at night. On the one hand I love soccer so much, it’s such a huge part of my life and it would be very strange to just completely walk away from the game. But on the other hand I would love to be able to prove that I can be successful in something completely unrelated to soccer, something that I’ve done on my own and away from the sport. So we’ll see, I don’t know quite yet.
- This is my sixth year in Utah. It is different than where I’m from in L.A. It’s funny, when I first found out I was coming here a lot of people were sympathetic. They were like ‘I’m sorry you’re going to Utah, such a bummer.’ I remember the first day I got here, it was a rough winter and there was a ton of snow. I was walking to the grocery store, trying to get something to eat from the hotel I was staying at just thinking, ‘Where am I?’ But I learned quickly that this place is a hidden gem. It’s fantastic and I love it. It’s certainly a slower pace of life than L.A., but the pace suits me. The people here are just so nice and so welcoming and I really feel like the community has embraced my presence here and the team’s presence here. It’s just such a fun thing to be a part of and I am extremely happy in Salt Lake.
Formerly of the Portland Timbers and Houston Dynamo, Jamaican defender Lovel Palmer joined RSL this offseason when he was picked up by the Claret-and-Cobalt in Stage II of the MLS Re-Entry Draft.
As told to Sam Stejskal:
I’m really enjoying Utah so far. Salt Lake’s a really good city, I can see the sun everyday – or most days – and that’s a lot different than Portland, so I’m definitely enjoying it.
To be honest, I’ve never been in an atmosphere like the one here. If you’re willing to work, the coaches are willing to work with you – they never take a day off. The players are great guys, too. Everyone gives advice, tries to make you a better player and that transfers over to the team performance.
As the people say here, it really is a RSL family. I don’t feel as if it’s a team, it’s a family. Everyone is really friendly, guys hang out outside the locker room and it’s just great. It’s no doubt part of the reason why the team has been so successful over the years because it’s a family, it’s truly close knit.
[RSL Head Scout] Andy Williams and I played together a little bit with the Jamaican national team in 2005 when he was the captain in the Gold Cup. He’s someone I look up to, someone I really respect for what he’s done on and off the pitch.
[RSL midfielder] Khari Stephenson’s a good friend of mine, as well. I’ve known him for years; I hang out with him a lot in the offseason in Jamaica, train with him there and stuff like that.
It’s really nice to have Andy and Khari here with me, but the way the rest of the guys are they make you feel at home, too. Everyone wants to learn about your culture and you try to learn a bit about theirs also. One of the guys I’ve gotten along with really well is Kyle [Beckerman], who’s definitely a bit multicultural and somewhat of an honorary Jamaican.
A lot of people don’t know that I played against Real Salt Lake in 2005 with Harbour View. The game was up at Rice-Eccles, I was the captain for my team and scored the goal in the 1-1 draw.
It’s funny, a couple of my friends back home were talking to me after RSL picked me up and they were telling me that I was destined to come here. I actually have a shirt from that 2005 game, I tweeted a picture of it out, it’s the first RSL jersey, I don’t know whose it was, but it’s great knowing that there’s a little bit of history between myself and RSL.
I was definitely thinking about MLS back in 2005, but I didn’t even think about playing for Real. I was just playing semi-pro in Jamaica, I didn’t think I would be here. But when I got the call this winter that I was picked up by RSL – a team that I always looked up to – I was like, ‘Wow, how great.’
- I’ve haven’t gotten up into the mountains much, but I just went to my first Jazz game with Khari last week. It was a lot of fun, but I’m still waiting for Kyle to take me fishing. That’s something I picked up when I was in Portland and I knew that he likes the outdoors and loves fishing, so I’m still waiting for him to take me.
RSL reserve goalkeeper Lalo Fernandez has yet to see the field for the first-team, but he's got quite the story off of it. Read about the 20-year-old Mexican-American 'keeper below.
As told to Sam Stejskal:
My Dad was a professional goalkeeper in Mexico so I moved around a lot growing up. I was born in Guadalajara, Mexico and moved to Morelia, Mexico City and Veracruz, really all over the place. When my Dad retired from playing soccer my family moved to El Paso, Texas, his hometown. I was there until I was 15, when I went to Chivas Guadalajara for two years. After that I went to the RSL Academy in Casa Grande, Ariz. for a year and then I went off to Uruguay for six months.
I played for a club called Peñarol in Uruguay. I loved it down there. The Uruguayan people are incredible, they’re really great people and Peñarol is a big team so the atmosphere was great.
After six months in Uruguay I came back to Real Salt Lake. I had been in the academy and I knew the coaches and the team really well already. I really felt comfortable when they brought me in for preseason and I always wanted to be here. It’s nice that I’m closer to my family now and it’s great to be on a team that’s always fighting for MLS Cup.
Even though my Dad was a professional, my parents never pressured me to play soccer. They put me in a bunch of different sports, they put me in karate, they put me in track they put me in a lot of stuff that they thought I would like before they put me in soccer. I always wanted to play, though. I started out being a forward and ended up being a goalie because one of my teammates couldn’t go to one game and I filled in for him. I had the idea because my Dad would always talk to me about goalie and I ended up doing well. I stuck with it and then my Dad started coaching me and that really helped me a lot.
I feel like I’m developing pretty well as a player. Last year was tough; I felt like I was progressing until I broke my wrist in July. Even though that injury kept me from playing goalie, it did help with my foot skills and my strength and fitness. This year I feel a lot stronger and a lot more confident. I feel the group has accepted us young guys more and they’ve given us confidence to show our talents, to show our skills and I really feel like I’m playing better.
I think we have a really unique situation here with our goalies. You’ve got Nick [Rimando] as the starter, he’s a national team player, he’s a leader in our locker room and I learn a lot from him. He talks to me about angles and a bunch of simple stuff that might not seem like that big of a deal, but when you put it into practice it really does make a big difference. Then on the other hand you have Josh [Saunders]. He won the last two MLS Cups for L.A. and he’s different than Nick but he’s really good too. I try to take the best things from both of their games. I’m also always talking with Jeff [Attinella] and working with him after training, too. With help from all three of those guys and of course from [RSL Goalkeeper Coach] Jeff Cassar, I think I’ve really started to develop more and more.
I’m roommates and good friends with [RSL defender] Carlos Salcedo. He and I knew each other from Guadalajara, he’s from there as well and we played together at Chivas. He’s a year younger than me and he’d play in the third division and sometimes I would go down there to get some games and he would be there and we’d always talk. Him being here is a big help for me because I have someone to relate to, someone who knows my culture and really understands where I come from.
I’m also close with a number of other guys on the team like Enzo [Martinez], Seba [Velasquez], David [Viana] and now [Joao] Plata and Olmes [Garcia]. Our relationship here in the locker room and outside the locker room is great; we hang out all the time. Enzo is married and we’re close with his wife. We go to their house all the time and we were there when Enzo’s daughter was born last year. That was a great experience; those are things you will never forget. Now we’re all like a family. They’re all great people and that really helps us all, it makes the group a lot stronger when we’re all comfortable and hopefully we can grow together.
I grew up with [No. 1 pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft and Vancouver forward] Omar Salgado. We played on the same club teams growing up in El Paso and he came to Chivas a few months after I started there. We Skyped earlier this week and I’m excited to hopefully see him this weekend when we play Vancouver. Hopefully we get to play each other in the Reserve Game on Sunday – that’d be really awesome. Growing up we always used to compete against each other, I’d always trash talk him, tell him he was my son because I’m the type of goalie that likes to talk to the forwards to try and get in their minds. He made a big step coming from Guadalajara to MLS and that was part of the reason why I wanted to come here. I saw how much he was progressing here and he was getting a lot better, getting more opportunities and I felt like coming to Salt Lake would help me like going to Vancouver helped him.
- One thing a lot of people don’t know about me is that I’ve played for youth national teams for both Mexico and the U.S. With Mexico I went through the whole qualifying process for the  U-17 World Cup in Nigeria. In the end I didn’t get the call-up to the final team, and that was a little bit disappointing, but that opened up other doors. That’s when the U.S. came to me with a chance to play for the U-20’s in 2010 and I took the opportunity, took a lot of pride in it and it was an awesome experience.