by Julie Harper, Salt Lake City
As is typical of preseason, Real Salt Lake like other clubs is full of newcomers and rookies. None however, stand out as much as Sebastián Velásquez, Real’s third SuperDraft pick.
His hair and his fun, outgoing personality, as well as his skill on the ball has made him the focus of much attention.
Juan Sebastián Velásquez was born in 1991 in Medellín, Colombia but at the age of 14 months, his mother moved to South Carolina to secure both of them a better future.
Velásquez says he has been playing soccer since he was born but did not play on a team until he was ten.
At 12 years old, he coincidentally often played against current RSL teammate Enzo Martínez’s team.
“These were big rival games, and were always fun,” says Velásquez. The duo then played together on Discoveries Soccer Club’s U-18 team and won the national championship.
Sebastián says it wasn’t until he was 17 years old and played with FC Barcelona’s youth team that he realized he was ready to play professionally.
“From there on, I dedicated in my mind, heart, and soul to hopefully have a chance to become one [a professional] and I couldn’t be happier it was Real Salt Lake that gave me the opportunity.”
He had some good lines for his future employers claiming that even before the SuperDraft …
“I fell in love with Real’s style of play because it is always on the ground and creative which is really similar to my style.”
When he was picked he was shocked and says, “it wasn’t until I stepped on the field with all my teammates that I realized I was playing with RSL and I was a part of such a big club.”
He was at first overwhelmed with excitement and nerves but when he relaxed; he realized that high expectations are put on any player who is part of a team frequently fighting for championships.
Asked about how the players treated him when he joined camp, he replied, “the players were very warming and they made me feel a part of the team,” adding that the family feeling of the team is growing.
To evidence that fact, he tells the story of how (Jamison) Olave and (Javier) Morales buzzed his head but let him keep his rat tail,” referring to his old haircut.
Velásquez says the veterans are always looking out for him which feels great because he looks up to all of them, although it is still all the new guys (Enzo Martinez (Uruguay), Lalo Fernandez (Mexico), Emiliano Bonfigli (Argentina), Terukazu Tanaka (Japan), Leone Cruz (Mexico), Diogo de Almeida (Brazil)) who hang out together because they are all staying at the same hotel.
“It is special because, although we are all from different countries and speak different languages, we always seem to understand each other and share the love for the same sport.”
Velazquez has three mentors on the team: Head Coach Jason Kreis, Assistant Coach Miles Joseph and Javier Morales.
“Coach Jason because he is a great coach. He motivates and gives us confidence, and his personality shows what RSL is about and how the team is the star and he’s always willing to answer questions.
Coach Miles because he always is looking out for me and he’s always making sure that I understand everything.
Morales because we play the same position and he is always giving me tips, advice, motivates me and helps me understand the position in the RSL system and that’s very special to me because he is a big star and is still willing to help me.”
Velásquez expects to be playing attacking midfield and thinks he will bring flair and creativity to Real’s game. Indeed the young man appears to have impressed people right to the very top of the totem pole.
Garth Lagerwey, RSL’s General Manager noted, “he is a very good technical player [with] lots of potential.”
But Lagerwey also brings up the point that Real is already heavy on #10 type players, with Morales and Luis Gil. Velásquez will most likely have to adjust to playing on whichever side of the diamond formation Kreis needs him, in order to see time on the first team.
He seems to be the type of player that Coach Kreis likes: able to control the ball and the game, playing with dedication and desire, and possessing that special drive within him that makes players like Fabián Espíndola successful at Real Salt Lake.
Time will tell. Luckily time is one thing youth generally has on its side.
The Sebastian Velazquez Factfile:
Birthday: February 11, 1991
Nicknames: Tian, Zorillo (Skunk), Zorinho (Ronaldinho mixed with skunk) and Seba.
Pregame ritual: Listen to music and watch video of Messi, Neymar and Ronaldinho and say a prayer that everything goes well.
Spare time: listens to music, plays video games and talk on the phone with his family and girlfriend.
Favorite soccer teams: Atletico Nacional (Colombia), FC Barcelona, Real Salt Lake and Colombia, Brasil and Spain.
Favorite FIFA team to play as: FC Barcelona
Favorite music: Reggaeton and House music, especially; Plan B and Nengo Flow.
Favorite class in college: “Soccer class, I got an A.”