SALT LAKE CITY— Ryan Neil was "incredibly excited" when he heard his name called for the 18th pick at Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft. The 22-year-old DF had been selected by Real Salt Lake, a team with proven success in Major League Soccer.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better team to come into, given their track record,” said Neil. “Their style of play is having the backs help out on the offensive side as much as possible, and I feel like that is one of my strengths as a player in that sense.”
There was little indication from the club on draft day if Neil was going to be selected by the club with the 18th pick, but a previous interview with RSL officials at the MLS Combine kept a glimmer of hope for Neil as the draft progressed.
“I was a little bit surprised, but I had done an interview with the club during the MLS Combine. They had expressed their interest in me, and kind of their overall plan of where I would fit in and my role long-term with the team,” said Neil. “I did know there was a little bit of interest based on the interview, but it still came as a little bit of a surprise when I did hear my name called.”
Neil spent four years at Cal and helped the Golden Bears reach the quarterfinals of the 2013 NCAA College Cup. While primarily playing in the midfield, Neil is expected to compete for a roster spot at right or left back for RSL.
If that’s the case, it’s going to take meaningful competition for Neil to find a starting spot behind usual starters Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert.
“I love being able to come out everyday and hopefully prove my game through competition. That way you grow as a player, and you’re constantly getting better,” said Neil. “I do at the same time understand that I’m coming in as a rookie, a new player, and I’m all for it.”
Moving and adapting to Utah shouldn’t be a struggle for the Southern California native, who admitted he’s all about having multiple seasons instead of California.
“I’ve been getting that question often, being from Orange County and all, but I prefer the cold rainy and snowy days, so I’m happy with the choice of where I will be living. I’ll have no problem with it.”
RSL fans have been welcoming Neil via social media, and the 22-year-old has welcomed the warm embrace of the club he hopes to succeed with.
“I am already excited to meet the fans. I’ve had support from a bunch of fans welcoming me to the RSL family. Everything has been so positive, and I can already tell fans are unbelievable at RSL, so I’m extremely excited.”
Follow Conner Johnson on Twitter: TheConner88