TUCSON (KVOA) — Real Salt Lake might be the perfect team to root for in 2021 if you live in Southern Arizona.
<p>There are many reasons for Tucsonans to saddle up next to RSL. They have long been the closest established side to this region. Not to mention RSL has had an investment in Arizona for a number of years.</p> <p>The club used to run its own youth academy up the I-10 in Casa Grande. That academy has since been relocated back to suburban Salt Lake City but it produced two Tucson-bred footballers who currently occupy spots on the RSL roster.</p> <p>Donny Toia and Justen Glad both went through the RSL Academy. Toia had the more established prep career here in Southern Arizona helping Canyon del Oro win back-to-back state championship (2009, 2010) before becoming a junior college All-American at Pima College.</p> <img src="https://quincy-network.s3.ca-central-1.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/39/2021/04/Donny-Toia-via-MLS.jpg" alt="" /><em>Canyon del Oro grad Donny Toia is back for a 3rd season playing defender for Real Salt Lake (Photo courtesy: Major League Soccer)</em><p>He cut his teeth playing under the tutelage of local soccer coaching legends Wolfgang Weber and Dave Cosgrove.</p> <p>Toia was signed as Real Salt Lake’s first homegrown player in 2011 but was released before ever appearing for the club. Instead, Toia became the star of FC Tucson's 1st Premier Developement League team in 2012.</p> <p>He scored four goals in 14 matches in his lone PDL season.</p> <p>The soon-to-be 29-year old made his Major League debut in 2014 with Chivas USA. He has spent parts of his eight-year career with Chivas USA, Montreal Impact, Orlando City SC and Real Salt Lake.</p> <p>Glad played just one season at Catalina Foothills before leaving to follow his soccer dreams with RSL. He's currently in his 8th season as a defender with the side and has spent time in two camps with the U.S. Men's National Team.</p> <img src="https://quincy-network.s3.ca-central-1.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/39/2021/04/Justen-Glad-via-JG.jpg" alt="" /><em>Justen Glad led Catalina Foothills to the state semifinals in his lone season playing high school soccer (Photo courtesy: Justen Glad/Twitter).</em><p>RSL also features another pair of players who starred at the Arizona Academy as well as during their summer collegiate years with FC Tucson.</p> <p>Phoenix-native Tate Schmitt scored a total of 10 goals in 30 appearances over three summers (2016, 2017 and 2018) with the Boys in Black.</p> <p>Schmitt has appeared in 10 games over the last two seasons for the senior club.</p> <p>Aaron Herrera was a teammate of Schmitt's on the 2016 and 2017 FC Tucson sides that were among the best in the PDL's Western Conference.</p> <p>He is in his 4th season as a defender with RSL.</p> <p>Although Real Salt Lake no longer operates an academy in Arizona, it has since established a program pyramid withing the state with youth soccer organizations such as Serreno Soccer Club in Phoenix and Fort Lowell Soccer Club in Tucson.</p> <p>Clubs in Tucson, Yuma, Nogales, Anthem and in the North, South and West Valley of Phoenix have all been re-branded as RSL-AZ providing both boys and girls a pipeline from youth soccer to the highest professional level.</p> <p>Real Salt Lake opens the 2021 MLS season on Saturday, April 24 at Minnesota United FC.</p> <p><em>Copyright 2021 <a href="http://www.kvoa.com/sports">News 4 Tucson</a>. All rights reserved.</em></p>