This past weekend the Real Salt Lake Academy officially began its quest for back-to-back MLS NEXT Cup Championships, beginning the 2021-22 season against Real Colorado. 

The U15 squad, led by Head Coach Andrew May, were the first to take the pitch. With a group made up entirely of players new to the RSL Academy, May was tasked with bringing together the young men in a short span in order to begin the season. The U15 squad produced a squad that rolled Real Colorado 4-0, leaving spectators none-the-wiser as to their limited time playing together.

Goals from Carlos Castrejon, Max Lora, Josiah Martinex and Axel Uriostegui led the way for the team offensively, while a clean-sheet performance from Ty Rinker in goal included a penalty save, helping the team cruise to victory. 

“It was a great start to the season,” May said. “It’s a long process and this is just the beginning of their journey.” 

In its first match since lifting the 2021 U15 MLS NEXT Cup trophy, the newly-promoted U17 team battled to a 4-3 win over Real Colorado. Director of Academy Coaching Arnold Rijsenburg took the reins of the group, rolling out a lineup that included six members of the Championship side, with three more available off the bench. 

Picking up right where they left off, Izahi Amparo, Axel Kei, Evan Pickering and Jude Wellings all scored in the tightly contested match, while goalkeeper Fernando Delgado and defenders Gershon Henry and Haroun Conteh sought to hold out Colorado’s offensive efforts. 

“It was a very difficult first game of the season,” Rijsenburg said. “We had to fight hard for 90 minutes to get the win. As expected, there is still a lot of work to do.”

Both teams will travel to Los Angeles, California this weekend to face LAFC on Sunday, September 12. The U15s will take the field at 10:00 a.m. MT and the U17s will follow closely behind at 12:00 p.m. MT.

Prior to Saturday the U17 team will take part in its first official United Premier Soccer League match against Spider FC on Wednesday, September 8 at Zions Bank Stadium.

This past weekend Real Salt Lake Academy’s three teams traveled to Oregon to take on Portland Timbers Academy in a trio of MLS Next matches.  

The U-15 side fell 3-2 with goals from Angel Montesinos and Noah Segura, while the U-17 team was able to pull out a 1-1 draw against the Timbers side thanks to an equalizer from Zander Romero. 

At the U-19 level the team fell 8-1 with Axel Kei scoring the lone goal, due in large part to 10 players making the trip with Real Monarchs to take part in their preseason match against Sacramento Republic. Seven of the Academy guys saw the pitch for the USL Championship side, including Frankie Martinez, Jaziel Orozco, Daniel Flores and Griffin Dillon starting the match, while Ken Bellini, Christian Nydegger and Pearse O’Brien got playing time off the bench. 

The RSL Academy will continue their MLS Next play on Saturday, May 22 when they travel to California to face Sacramento Republic and then again on Saturday, June 12 against Ballistic United.  

MLS Next is Major League Soccer’s new youth development initiative, creating top level competition across the United States and Canada. Saturday’s slew of matches marked the first time for the Academy competing in the new league.  

Outside of MLS Next play, the U-19’s will be competing in the United Premier Soccer League Premier Division where they are currently 2-0-0. Their next match is on May 2 at 10:00 a.m. MT against Battle Born FC at Zions Bank Stadium.

Legendary goalkeeper retired two years ago from professional soccer after 14 years with RSL.

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando records a save in MLS action between Real Salt Lake and the Houston Dynamo at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019. Rimando will join the coaching staff of the RSL Academy, the club announced Wednesday, April 21, 2021.

When Nick Rimando retired from professional soccer, he planned to travel, go to concerts and spend more time with his family. The COVID-19 pandemic stalled those plans, and he discovered how much he missed soccer.

So he got into coaching. First with the annual goalkeeping camp through the RSL Youth Development Academy, then giving private lessons to young goalkeepers.

Now the goalkeeping legend will join the organization from which he retired just two years ago and start his coaching career in earnest.

Rimando will join the coaching staff of the RSL Academy, the club announced Wednesday. He will serve as the team’s goalkeeping coach and official club ambassador. The latter role will have Rimando participating in community outreach, ticketing initiatives and partnerships during the 2021 season.

“Every player has their own journey, and I am looking forward to using my experience to guide and help them reach their goals,” Rimando said in a news release. “RSL has been a big part of my life on and off the field.

“After taking some time off and seeing the direction of the club I’m thrilled to join RSL in an ambassador role. I’m excited to bring that buzz back to RSL Nation and to connect with our fans and build a strong relationship with all of our communities.”

Rimando was already being courted by former teammate Kyle Beckerman to join Utah Valley University’s coaching staff. Beckerman was recently named head coach of the Wolverines.

“The name Nick Rimando is synonymous with Real Salt Lake, and now, our academy boys will have the opportunity to learn from one of Major League Soccer’s greatest players,” RSL assistant general manager Tony Beltran said in a news release. “Both on the field and beyond, we look forward to all future collaboration with Nick, as we together strive to lead and inspire the soccer culture in Utah.”