Just to keep creating space for others, making unselfish runs. I think like I did last year it was a big help for the other guys to free space up. I’m just going to continue improving that, working on my finishing a lot. —RSL's Luis Silva
HERRIMAN — Real Salt Lake’s signing of high-profile striker Alfredo Ortuno earlier this month could be a huge boost to the attack in 2018.
The club hasn’t had a double-digit scorer since Joao Plata hit the back of the net 13 times in 2014, and the signing of the big Spanish striker is meant to address that need.
Yura Movsisyan was supposed to be the answer when he signed a huge contract in 2016, but he fell out of favor last summer as Luis Silva unseated him as Mike Petke’s preferred striker.
Ortuno’s signing seemingly relegates Silva to a backup status yet again, but the 29-year-old striker isn’t deterred by the extra competition. It’s something he’s grown accustomed to during stints at Toronto FC, D.C. United, Tigres and Real Salt Lake.
“I’ve been doing it since D.C. United when Eddie Johnson was our striker up there. I worked hard, and tried to earn a spot. When things are going for you, they’re going for you. I’m hoping to just keep that up this year no matter who comes, to be honest,” said Silva.
Silva scored seven goals after taking over as the primary starter on June 17. Petke reiterated, however, on multiple occasions throughout the second half of the season that Silva’s goals were but a sliver of his contribution when on the field. It’s ultimately what gave him the nod over Movsisyan.
As he heads into the preseason, Silva is focused on those intangibles again.
“Just to keep creating space for others, making unselfish runs. I think like I did last year it was a big help for the other guys to free space up. I’m just going to continue improving that, working on my finishing a lot,” said Silva.
Even though Silva isn’t considered a true striker in the mold of Ortuno, RSL scored 32 of its 49 goals last season in the final 15 games when Silva was leading the point of the attack.
Silva’s work ethic was never going to allow him to be complacent this preseason anyway, but the signing of Ortuno will force him to work that much harder for minutes in 2018.
“It keeps you on your toes. It doesn’t make you relax and say ‘OK, I’ve got my spot.’ I like the competition, it always helps you improve your level of play as well,” said Silva.
Silva proved in 2016 that he isn’t afraid of competition when he jumped at the chance to move to Mexican power Tigres. He knew minutes would be hard to come by — which they were as he only made two appearances in one year with the club — but wanted to challenge himself nonetheless.
That work ethic paid off in his return to Real Salt Lake in 2017, but it took some patience.
He only started five of RSL’s first 16 games, and all of those were either the result of injury, international duty or a rotation of players because of a midweek game.
His spot on the team changed on June 17 when he got the starting nod against Minnesota ahead of Movsisyan. Ironically, Movsisyan came on as a late sub and scored the winning goal in that match, and he didn’t shy away from expressing his displeasure toward Petke in his celebration.
Petke was pleased with Silva’s performance in his 70 minutes before being subbed off, and he rewarded him with another start, and then another, and then another. In fact, Silva started 14 of RSL’s final 17 games. It would’ve been more, but he missed two games because of suspension and injury.
Regardless of what his role is once the 2018 season gets underway on March 3, Silva will stay level-headed and won’t get discouraged if he finds himself on the bench for an extended period of time.
“I think every player is different in that aspect. I always look back where I’ve been and what I’ve gone through and stuff like that to keep myself motivated. Family helps with that too,” said Silva.
“It’s going to happen, some players are mentally stronger than others. I think I’ve been through a lot where I’m prepared to, if that’s the case, I’m prepared for it. And if I’m starting, I’m prepared for it.”
It’s a long season, and Silva knows both scenarios will play out at some point.