MLS Spotlight: Luis Silva ready to leave his mark in second Real Salt Lake stint

Joe Camporeale
The 28-year-old playmaker is excited to kick off his second stint at Rio Tinto Stadium after a tough year with Liga MX powerhouse Tigres.

Luis Silva knew he departed Real Salt Lake with unfinished business.

Traded by D.C. United midway through the 2015 MLS campaign, the playmaker didn't record a goal or assist while making just 10 appearances — seven starts — for RSL. Out of contract at season's end, Silva departed MLS for Liga MX powerhouse Tigres.

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But after a frustrating year abroad, Silva has returned to Rio Tinto Stadium. A day after the 28-year-old rejoined the squad for preseason training in Arizona, Salt Lake formally announced Silva's return on a permanent move from Tigres on Friday.

"In the back of my head, I think I always knew I was going to come back to RSL," Silva told Goal. "I just didn't know it was going to be this soon."

Over the past 12 months, Silva and RSL never lost sight of each other. At one point, Silva hoped to secure a loan back to the MLS side. Although that move didn't materialize, he stayed in touch with former teammates such as Joao Plata, Lalo Fernandez and Sebastian Saucedo.

After failing to make much of an impact during his initial stint with RSL, Silva retained a thirst to show the club his true ability. Having signed a two-year deal with an option for a third, Silva now wants to recapture the form that saw him record 11 goals and four assists with United in 2014.

Luis Silva Jeff Cassar Real Salt Lake

Long seen as an enticing talent thanks to his guile on the ball and precision in the final third, Silva cashed in on his potential while helping United to a first-place finish that year. It was midway through the subsequent campaign, when Silva was plagued by hamstring issues, that he was dealt to Salt Lake in exchange for veteran forward Alvaro Saborio.

"When I came in the middle of the season, I don't think I was able to express myself the way I should have," Silva said. "I'm just hungrier. I'm hungrier to succeed, to score, to assist, to win. I just want to get out there and play and show everyone that I am a good player and that I could compete in this league."

RSL general manager Craig Waibel added: "We are excited to have Luis back. He's a talented player that we loved having here, and during that time he fit in very well with the organization. He can play multiple positions and brings another dimension to the attacking front."

Silva's hunger is fueled by a year of soccer starvation, as first-team opportunities at Tigres proved to be scarce for the Los Angeles native. In fact, the UC Santa Barbara product only made a pair of CONCACAF Champions League appearances and never stepped on the field in a Liga MX match.

While Silva relished the opportunity to learn from the likes of Andre-Pierre Gignac and Ismael Sosa, those world-class attackers were the same players blocking his route to playing time for the 2016 Apertura champions.

"If you look at their roster, the 11 players that are starting are national team players," Silva said. "It's a tough group to break into. I honestly felt like I never got the opportunity to play, to show my skills. In training sessions they tell you you're doing well, but they never put you in. That's kind of hard for you to express yourself that way."

Amid the familiar faces, Silva finds himself linking up with an RSL side in transition. The offseason departure of longtime playmaker Javier Morales to FC Dallas leaves a substantial void, with Silva and newcomer Albert Rusnak the chief candidates to take over the No. 10 role. The exit of winger Juan Manuel Martinez leaves another attacking hole for coach Jeff Cassar to fill.

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With experience playing in central midfield, on the flank and up top, Silva can take on a variety of roles in RSL's 4-3-3 formation. After a year on the sidelines, getting minutes wherever he can find them is what matters most to Silva.

"Let me tell you, it was tough," Silva said. "I think this past year was the toughest year mentally for me personally, and that's made me stronger. Mentally I'm tougher now — and I can overcome anything."