Diego Luna shocks by turning down Olympic chance with USMNT

Real Salt Lake's talented Diego Luna chooses to prioritize his MLS career over being a reserve at the Paris 2024 Olympics
Real Salt Lake v St Louis City SC
Real Salt Lake v St Louis City SC / Bill Barrett/ISI Photos/GettyImages

Diego Luna, Real Salt Lake's young prospect, made a surprising decision to turn down an alternate spot on the US national team for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. In a move that certainly raised a lot of eyebrows, Luna decided that it wasn't worth staying on as a reserve when he could be contributing directly to his club's success in Major League Soccer. And let's face it, he couldn't have been more right.

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This is not an ideal situation for a player of Luna's caliber. At just 20 years old, he has already established himself as one of the pillars of Real Salt Lake, one of the hottest teams in the MLS at the moment. Leaving the team for a month, with no guaranteed minutes on the pitch, is impractical for someone who is on the rise and essential to his club's ambitions. Last year, everything indicated that Luna would be called up as a key player for Marko Mitrović's team. However, the reality was somewhat different.

During the last Olympic preparation camp in June, Mitrović named a squad of 25 players to face Japan. Surprisingly, Diego Luna was left out. Despite his efforts and a stellar performance, Luna failed to secure a place on the main list. This just goes to show that sometimes coaches' choices are as unpredictable as the game itself.

"Maybe we're not on the same page at times, but that's how it is with some coaches," said Luna, who now keeps his focus on the club: "It gives me a clearer mind to work hard here [RSL] and make sure my performances on the pitch are of a high standard, so there's no reason why I shouldn't be on that [Olympic] team."

Luna's decision was meticulously calculated. He has been a key part of Real Salt Lake's push for an MLS Cup. The club is currently second in the Western Conference, thanks in large part to Luna's contributions. With five goals and 12 assists in 20 appearances so far in the 2024 season, Luna has not only helped his club shine, but has also excelled individually.

Recently, Luna had a standout performance as he scored a goal and provided three assists in Real Salt Lake's 5-2 win over Atlanta United. He opened the scoring with an assist in the first minute and continued to be a dominant presence throughout the game, adding two assists and a goal in the second half. That's not just luck, it's proof that Luna has what it takes to be one of the best.

Real Salt Lake, under Pablo Mastroeni, have the second best home and away record in the Western Conference, losing just three times in 22 games so far. And Luna is a big part of that success. His ability to create plays, his vision on the pitch and his unwavering determination make him a force to be reckoned with. It's exactly this mentality that led Luna to turn down the alternative Olympic spot.

It's not just about wanting to play; it's about knowing your worth and where you can make the biggest difference. Luna opted to stay with Real Salt Lake, helping the team continue its MLS title run. And that decision could well be the best one for his career in the long term. Instead of being a reserve waiting for a chance at the Olympics, he's making history at his club, gaining valuable experience and standing out as one of the best young talents in the league.