New faces feeling comfortable in Salt Lake's backline

Kenny Mansally

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SANDY, Utah – As Real Salt Lake put together their roster, they had certain objectives in mind. The first of which was securing a great defense.

That should have been a piece of cake. RSL already had a strong defense in place with Jámison Olave, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert and Tony Beltran penciled in to start across the backline.

They also were counting on Chris Schuler to take over in case someone were out.

HIGHLIGHTS: RSL 2, VAN 1

What they didn't count on was Schuler being out of action for two months, and the rest of the crew suffering from various minor knocks, leaving them short of defenders with a tough CONCACAF Champions League campaign about to get underway.

Enter Kwame Watson-Siriboe and Kenny Mansally, both acquired by RSL in late June to shore up the defense. The duo started Friday night in place of Olave – who missed out through a hamstring strain – and the banged up Wingert, who started on the bench, and they helped  RSL to a  2-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps.

"I think our defense is playing much better," said midfielder Ned Grabavoy. "If you look at two guys that haven't played a ton of minutes with us, they have been playing really well, Kwame and Kenny Mansally. With Chris Schuler out, we needed that. And that's important going forward because when you've got guys we can put in the starting lineup to count on to get a rest, like Jamison or Chris Wingert tonight, that has been a big difference."

Mansally displayed his usual quickness and ability on the ball throughout the game, and Watson-Siriboe was a strong presence in the back, something he has been working on diligently.

"I still have a lot of things I can work on," said Watson-Siriboe. "I mean it's only my fifth game. I thought I was pretty good with my feet, and I thought my athleticism was evident. I still made a couple of mistakes, and one cost us a goal"

Borchers was the old hand on the backline, and he had almost nothing but praise for the two new defenders.

"I thought they did a great job," said Borchers. "Both are very athletic, very fast, read the game quite well. I think Dane Richards got behind us one time on Kenny's side, otherwise he was really solid. And Kwame was the same way, very composed on the ball, great pro. It is really nice to see that kind of depth on the team."

So while RSL have dealt with their fair share of injuries on the backline, they may have found some answers. h

"They did good, very good," enthused goalkeeper Nick Rimando. "Kenny is a young player that is great in the air, Kwame as well. He's fast, and good positioning and talks a lot, so I feel comfortable with them in front of me."