Last season he was the hero (or villain, take your pick) of RSL's run to the Western Conference Final. This year he has only seen the field once with the club, playing 90 minutes in a U.S. Open Cup loss on April 20. After months of speculation and confusion about the reasons why, David Ochoa himself spoke out today, informing fans via his Instagram that he has been unable to train with the team.
The Ochoa saga has been going on (and in some sense, been over with) for months now in Salt Lake, but today's news thrusted the young goalkeeper back into league and club headlines. The intricate details remain under wraps, but there is enough context to make an educated guess about what happened. For those curious how we got to this point, here is a timeline:
2021-22 Offseason: RSL picks up team option on Ochoa, who enters the 2022 season on the final year of his contract. It is unknown if the club offered an extension, but one would assume the front office at least tried.
February 19, 2022: Ochoa is subbed out of RSL's final preseason game in the 70th minute with a right quad injury. He remains either questionable or out on the injury report for the season's first two months.
April 17: Head coach Pablo Mastroeni says Ochoa is actually dealing with a finger injury.
April 20: Starts and plays the entire U.S. Open Cup game in Utah against the Northern Colorado Hailstorm. He makes zero saves as the Hailstorm only had one shot one frame, which was also the game's only goal.
April 21: Receives a call up to the Mexican National Team.
April 30: Returns to team and is on the bench for RSL's match against the LA Galaxy. This would be the last time Ochoa is seen on a gameday roster.
May 8: Is not on the bench for the match at Nashville. In a media availability later in the week, Mastroeni says Ochoa is dealing with "personal issues."
May 20: Sent on assignment to the club's MLS Next Pro team, Real Monarchs. Plays the full 90 minutes, making two saves in a 3-0 loss to North Texas SC.
May 25: Plays 90 minutes for the Monarchs again. He has three saves in a 1-0 loss to Houston Dynamo 2.
May 31: Mastroeni indicates recent Monarch assignments were a result of team disciplinary action.
June 6: Receives another call up to the Mexican National Team
June 6: MLS Soccer's Tom Bogert reports Ochoa and RSL have been unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension and that clubs outside of MLS are interested in the keeper.
June 16: Listed as on international duty despite attending a Chivas vs Santos friendly at Rio Tinto Stadium the night before.
Rest of June/July: Consistently posts from his hometown of Oxnard, California. Is unlisted on any club injury reports or as being on international duty. Does not make a gameday roster for RSL or the Monarchs.
July 12 (Today): Announces on his Instagram that he is still with the team but cannot train or go elsewhere.
So now what? Ochoa is out of contract at the end of the year. There were likely disagreements off the field that resulted in the club not wanting to play him this season. So, he will have to continue not playing until his contract expires, ultimately being able to go elsewhere in the offseason. He can sign a pre-contract with another club once he has six months or fewer on his RSL deal, which may already be the case. That condition will also likely prevent the club from making any money for him from a transfer as any club who wants Ochoa knows it does not have to wait long.
Ultimately, the saga is a huge disappointment. RSL not only lost a key contributor, it also has to watch a promising homegrown talent walk for free. For Ochoa, he has to spend a full year not playing or training, a disappointing outcome for any player, especially one his age.