HERRIMAN — Had things unfolded how they were supposed to last summer, Alfredo Ortuno would be competing for playing time with Real Valladolid in the Spanish second division in the club’s quest for promotion to La Liga.
Instead, the Spanish striker found himself in Utah for his first training session with Real Salt Lake on Wednesday after signing a contract in January.
An unlikely series of events brought him to MLS, but he’s excited for the next chapter in his career.
“I’m really excited to be able to be here and to be part of the league and a part of the team, and I’m looking forward to being a part of everything, and especially to get out there and start playing,” said Ortuno through a translator.
Ortuno hasn’t played in six months after a summer transfer in Spain wasn’t approved because it missed the deadline and, naturally, the striker is champing at the bit to get on the field again.
Ortuno, 27, arrived in Utah on Tuesday night and spent most of Wednesday’s practice jogging and stretching as he slowly adjusts to his new surroundings.
Ortuno has played professional soccer since 2008, and his most productive stretch came during the 2016-2017 season on loan with Cardiz in the Spanish second division when he scored 17 goals. It appeared he’d parlayed that into a move to Valladolid, but it didn’t materialize.
That opened the door for him to explore options in the winter transfer window. It’s no coincidence that he ended up in a foreign country over 5,000 miles away.
For six months during the 2015 season, Ortuno was teammates with current RSL defender Marcelo Silva. They lived in the same apartment complex and got to know each other really well.
When Silva learned of Ortuno’s situation, he encouraged Real Salt Lake’s technical staff to go after him. Ortuno was already on RSL’s radar after its pursuit of Silva.
Once talks between the player and the club escalated, Silva talked to Ortuno personally and the Spanish striker said he weighed those opinions heavily.
“He talked about how great it was to be here. He talked about that Real was close-knit, and he had good relationships with the people here and that the league was also growing and improving and that it was a good league. That if you have the option to come here you should really think about it,” said Ortuno.
Silva himself has only been with Real Salt Lake since signing in July, and it’s a signing he’s very much still grateful for.
“I am happy with the decision, it was a decision I had to make in the moment because I had opportunities in other places. Now that I’m here and I’m training I’m happy with my decision and looking forward to the future,” said Silva through a translator on Wednesday.
The addition of Ortuno at striker gives line-up competition this season to Luis Silva, who became RSL’s first-choice striker late last season. General manager Craig Waibel said that competition will help the team throughout the season.
“The front office’s job is to always challenge the roster and the resources that the coaches have to choose from, it’s the players that will define where they fit,” said Waibel.
Marcelo Silva believes Ortuno will fit right into the RSL culture. He might even give the club its first double-digit goal scorer since Joao Plata scored 13 goals in 2013.