SANDY — The decision was an easy one, but that still didn’t make it any easier.
Heading into his sophomore season at brand new Ridgeline High School in Cache County two years ago, Julian Vazquez was really looking forward to the opportunity of playing one more year of competitive soccer with his older brother, JC Vazquez.
On paper, Ridgeline had the makings of a very good team that year — which eventually came to fruition as Ridgeline won the 2017 3A state championship with senior JC Vazquez leading the way.
The younger Vazquez, however, wasn’t there for the on-field celebration. Instead he was in Casa Grande, Arizona, finishing up his first season at the Real Salt Lake Academy after accepting the invitation prior to his sophomore season.
“It was super difficult because my older brother was a senior in high school and it would’ve been our last year playing high school together, but I knew he supported me in my decision as well as my family,” said Vazquez.
That decision to immerse himself in RSL’s Academy has been paying dividends over the past two years, and this week Vazquez, 17, was rewarded as he signed a homegrown contract with Real Salt Lake.
“It’s crazy to think that not so long ago I was just watching the games as a little kid and now I’m going to be part of the team. It’s an amazing moment for me and my family,” said Vazquez, who was introduced to the crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium during halftime on Saturday’s 4-1 loss.
Vazquez said he’d been having discussions with RSL general manager Craig Waibel about a potential contract over the past two months and it became official on Friday. He becomes the 16th player to sign a homegrown contract with Real Salt Lake, and the first since the academy was moved to the new facility in Herriman at the start of the 2017-2018 school year.
“It’s crazy to think about, but I’ve been working very hard for this moment and always dreamt of this happening. All the hard work is showing off now,” said Vazquez.
Vazquez has started five matches so far this season for the RSL Academy under-19 team, scoring one goal. For the under-17 team last season, he scored 13 goals in 25 starts.
Vazquez said the plan is for him to finish out the academy season this school year and then join the club next summer, mostly likely with the Real Monarchs at first.
“We’re excited to add another academy player in Julian,” said RSL coach Mike Petke in a press release. “It’s important to utilize our academy, and Julian has earned the right to be signed. Now it’s up to him of what he makes of it.”
Vazquez joins eight other current RSL players who came up through the academy when it was based in Arizona: Danilo Acosta, Jordan Allen, Corey Baird, Justen Glad, Aaron Herrera, Jose Hernandez, Brooks Lennon and Sebastian Saucedo.
“It’s always a proud day at RSL when we are able to sign a young player that has come through our system,” said Waibel in a press release. “We have made a commitment to youth development, and Julian has done a lot to earn this opportunity.”