RSL's Aaron Herrera made his international debut on Sunday, starting and going 78 minutes in the Americans' 7-0 blow out of Concacaf nemesis Trinidad and Tobago. Herrera's performance was a big deal on Sunday and an even bigger deal going forward. Here's what it all means:
Qualifying for the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympics will be in March, a few weeks before MLS play begins in April. The tournament is largely for U-23 members, which Herrera qualifies for. Playing in a Olympic qualifying tournament will be valuable experience for Herrera and it could increase his chances of securing a transfer to Europe. While that roster is not finalized yet, Aaron is making a strong case to be included after his performance in this January camp.
The most important result for Herrera from this game was his selection to the starting 11. An international camp is highly competitive, and this one has been viewed as an opportunity for Gregg Berhalter to determine who gets the final spots on the full squad for world cup qualifying later this year. The fact that Aaron was able to beat out the rest of the competition for a starting spot is a strong testament to what he did in training, and shows that he is moving up the US depth chart.
When playing for RSL, Herrera typically features as an offensive-minded right back who contributes heavily to the team's attack. Given this fact, many RSL fans may have been disappointed to see that he was not involved in any of the seven goals scored on the night, especially considering how easy it was to get goals. (Herrera did win the free kick for the US that resulted in the team's fifth goal). This had more to do with a different strategical formation as opposed to his actual play. Most of the goals came from the center of the pitch as the midfielders pulled the strings and opened up the T&T back line. The US defensive was content to stay back and help in possession and hinder any potential counter-attacks. Herrera showed a different skill set than he typically does with RSL, as he frequently prevented attacks before they began and added some strong challenges. This versatility is an exciting indicator of his future potential in any system.
The most important thing for RSL and Herrera is that he finished the game injury free. Concacaf soccer can often be intense, and it is always unfortunate when a player gets hurt in a blow-out friendly. He had one scare in the 53rd minute after he was scissor kicked by Jabari Mitchell, who received a yellow card on the play. Luckily, Herrera was able to continue on and finish healthy. Keeping him healthy across all competitions will be a high priority for RSL this year as they are particularly weak at the right back position.
OTHER RSL CONNECTIONS
Noah Powder, who is under contract with the RSL group of teams and typically plays for the Real Monarchs, was a substitute appearance for Trinidad and Tobago, coming in at the 82nd minute. Former RSL player Alvin Jones, who was released from the team this off season, had T&T's best chance of the night when his penalty kicked was saved by Matt Turner in the 66th minute.
Cover image from Real Salt Lake