David Ochoa gets out of RSL doghouse

D.C. United has acquired David Ochoa from Real Salt Lake.

The 21-year-old goalkeeper starred for RSL in its run to the 2021 Western Conference final but has not played an MLS game in 2022.

Ochoa was injured in RSL's final preseason game against Portland. Zac MacMath took over in goal and has held the starting job ever since, leading MLS in saves.

How long Ochoa stays at D.C. United remains to be seen. He is in the final year of his contract and D.C. United's hope is that it can sign him to a new deal and he will take over as its starting keeper. Long-time No. 1 keeper Bill Hamid is injured and not expected to return after his contract expires at the end of the season.

“David is an extremely talented and competitive goalkeeper,” said D.C. United president of soccer Dave Kasper. “We believe he has the ability to make an immediate impact for us this season, and someone who we consider a viable option for us longer-term as we evaluate the goalkeeper position beyond 2022.”

That uncertainty about Ochoa's future is reflected in what RSL gets in the trade:

• $75,000 in 2023 General Allocation Money;
• $300,000 in GAM (spread evenly over 2023 and 2024) if Ochoa re-signs with D.C. United for the 2023 season or $300,000 in 2023 GAM if D.C. United transfers him outside of MLS before the end of 2022;
• 25% of D.C. United's transfer fee if it permanently transfers Ochoa outside of MLS.

Ochoa returned from his quad injury but only played one match -- a 1-0 loss in the U.S. Open Cup to the Northern Colorado Hailstorm on April 20 -- for RSL, fourth in the Western Conference with a 9-7-6 record. Finger ailments have sidelined him while he was granted an “excused personal absence” to miss a match against Nashville SC on May 8. His only two appearances since then were for the Real Monarchs in MLS Next Pro in May.

On July 12, Ochoa posted a message on Instagram: "For those of you asking ... yes I'm still an RSL player. I’m just not allowed to train with the team. And can’t leave. I hope you guys have a blessed rest of your day."

Following his trade on Friday, he posted another message, thanking RSL "for providing me the opportunity to fulfill my childhood dream and to call this beautiful game my job. I will forever be grateful. It’s been real."

He was named to Mexico's national team for its June matches in the Concacaf Nations League but did not dress. A year earlier, Ochoa was the No. 3 keeper for the USA at the Concacaf Nations League final four in Denver, where it beat Mexico, 3-2, in the championship game.

But Ochoa, who had played for the USA in the 2019 Under-20 World Cup and Concacaf U-23 qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, filed a switch of association last September to play for Mexico at the senior level.

In a long post at the Players' Tribune, he wrote about the conflicts of being an Mexican-American in both the United States and Mexico, how grateful he was for growing up in the U.S. youth system and also the place Mexico had in his heart as he watched from the bench the USA beat El Tri in the 2021 Nations League final in Denver.

Ochoa grew up in Oxnard, California, and briefly moved to Guadalajara to join Chivas. But he could not be registered to play for Chivas' youth teams because of his young age, so he joined the Real Salt Lake academy, then based in Casa Grande, Arizona. 

The RSL program in Casa Grande has produced a long line of young pros. Corey Baird (1996 birth year), Brooks Lennon (1997), Danilo Acosta (1997), Justen Glad (1997), Aaron Herrera (1997), Sebastian Saucedo (1997), Sebastian Soto (2000), Richard Ledezma (2000), Taylor Booth (2001) and Ochoa have all attended U.S. national team camps or played for the USA at world youth championships.

Ochoa signed with RSL for the 2019 season, which he spent at the Monarchs, winners of the USL Championship title. It wasn't until 2021 he finally earned the starting job at RSL. He was not shy about celebrating RSL's successes, which included road wins over Seattle and Sporting Kansas City in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

"I enjoy being the villain," Ochoa said following the shootout win over the Sounders, who had outshot RSL, 21-0.

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