Park City’s Saucedo plays against Manchester United |

Park City’s Saucedo plays against Manchester United

Real Salt Lake plays host to Manchester United

By Griffin Adams
The Park Record

Park City native and current Real Salt Lake athlete Sebastian Saucedo wasn't intimidated when he walked onto the field at Rio Tinto Stadium on Monday evening.

His team was hosting one of the world's biggest soccer clubs, Manchester United, which is making its way through a stateside tour.

Saucedo and his teammates were aggressive and would not back down from the Goliath-sized challenge. Though the scoreboard showed a 2-1 loss for Real Salt Lake by the end of the game, playing tough against an opponent like Manchester United is no easy task, many on the team acknowledged.

"We had a big night tonight against Manchester United," Saucedo said. "We tested ourselves against one of the best teams in Europe. It's just a test to see where we're at. I think we did a great job."

Saucedo started the game in his usual position on the bench, as his team's starters were given the opening 30 minutes of play to show what they can do. They did just that by recording first blood in the game after Jefferson Savarino played a beautiful ball to Luis Silva, who was able to finish the play and put Real Salt Lake up 1-0 in the 23rd minute.

Because the team has an important Major League Soccer match against Portland on Wednesday, the timing of the international friendly match wasn't ideal, and Real Salt Lake team manager Mike Petke was forced to play the starters just 30 minutes.

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In the 31st minute, Saucedo came in, and with the Manchester United starters still in the game, he was able to square up against some of the best in the world.

"It's amazing playing against [guys like] Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata," Saucedo said. "You're playing against the best players in the world. It's just another test to see where you're at compared to all those players."

Saucedo treated the competition like any other game. The Park City native wasn't going to back down against some of the world's best. His determination was visible within the first few minutes of play on the pitch.

Saucedo was flying around the ball on the turf field, asserting himself right into the mix from the get go. So much so that there were times the Manchester United side believed Saucedo was playing with too much aggression.

For example, one of United's players Juan Mata went down with an injury after Saucedo appeared to, with the bottom of his boot, clip the back of Mata's ankle. The play resulted in Mata leaving the game. Saucedo, however, claimed it wasn't him who hit Mata, but rather a teammate.

Minutes later, Saucedo was taken down by Antonio Valencia, who crashed into Saucedo's backside, cleating his calf. The play was viewed as overly aggressive. After the referee talked with Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho about subbing Valencia out — Mourinho refused — the United player was given a red card.

"Saucedo, I think is the name of the boy who was really aggressive during all the second half," Mourinho said. "Some other actions were a bit dangerous. It's young people with enthusiasm playing against Manchester United, but it’s a friendly match and it’s a different mentality."

Saucedo said he defended Valencia well throughout their time on the pitch, which may have contributed to what appeared to be a revenge slide from the United palyer. He also claimed the tackle was "unnecessary," adding Valencia got nothing but calf muscle.

"Us young palyers are playing against Manchester United," Saucedo said. "We want to play. We're all excited to play. If you foul me, I'll foul you back. Simple as that. It's just a game. The physical part, that's how it is. If you tackle, you're going to get tackled back.

"I think it should’ve gone both ways."

The Real Salt Lake head coach defended his 20-year-old player, as the two have developed a strong bond this season.

"Having coached [Saucedo] and knowing him on a personal level, there was no intent," Petke said. "He was just playing hard. It would be like if the New York Yankees went around the world and played another team, that team would play extremely hard.

"I don't think there was any intent with the Mata thing. I think that was a red card offense with what happened with Valencia."

The play forced Saucedo to leave the game limping. He was seen on crutches after the game. But the Park City Soccer Club product claims he'll be good to go for the team's big match against Portland on Wednesday.

After a rough start to the year, Real Salt Lake is gunning for a playoff spot after a season resurgence, so Saucedo is glad that he shouldn't miss any time.

"I think we're something special," Saucedo said. "We have the quality. We showed it against the LA Galaxy and we showed it tonight against Manchester United. We just have to take that game to Portland and prove our point that we're one of the best teams in the MLS."

Despite going down multiples times throughout the match — culminating with the red card incident — Saucedo said playing against Manchester United is an experience he won't forget. Saucedo, who still isn't even of drinking age in the United States, hopes he can continue to improve and have experiences like Monday evening throughout his career.

"We all have to appreciate [Petke] for giving us the opportunity to prove ourselves in this league, because we're all capable of doing that," Saucedo said. "I'm super thankful to have someone like that. I appreciate all the confidence he gives us. We just all have to take advantage and never give up and show why we're here."

Saucedo and Real Salt Lake are scheduled to take on the Portland Timbers on Wednesday evening at 8:30 p.m. MST.