Skeleton crew: Real Salt Lake prepare to visit Seattle Sounders with injury-thinned forward corps
SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake are preparing for arguably their biggest MLS game so far this season — the start of a rugged stretch of three games in eight days — and began those preparations without much in the way of forwards at Tuesday's training session.
Four days before Seattle and RSL, the top two teams in the standings, meet at CenturyLink Field (4 pm ET, MLS LIVE), Olmes Garcia was the only one present of the five players who have started up top for the Claret-and-Cobalt this season.
Alvaro Saborio (tied for the team's scoring lead) is on duty with the Costa Rican national team, preparing for the World Cup.
Joao Plata (tied with Saborio as the team's leading scorer), reinjured his hamstring in the scoreless tie with Dallas on Saturday. When Plata injured the same hamstring earlier this season, he missed his team's next three games.
“I would anticipate that Joao is not going to be participating in this game,” RSL coach Jeff Cassar told reporters, “but it's not as bad as we thought.”
Robbie Findley, who against Dallas made his first appearance since undergoing knee surgery in December, did not train on Tuesday. He was one of the players who got the day off because he played in Sunday's reserve game against Seattle (another 0-0 tie), but he was limping visibly after Saturday's match.
“I think he's looking really good,” Cassar said, acknowledging that Findley is “not 100 percent. To say he is is foolish. But he's getting close. He's working hard.”
Devon Sandoval was also missing from Tuesday's training session; he was given the day off after suffering “just a little knock” against FC Dallas on Saturday.
Sandoval is also recovering from foot surgery, and Cassar said the team is “just making sure he's fine. He's day-to-day, but I think he's going to be fine.”
- Catch the latest RSL news at RealSaltLake.com
The injuries, and Saborio's absence, come at a bad time for RSL. Following Saturday's game in Seattle, the team is flying straight to Columbus for a Wednesday match against the Crew. Then it's back home to Utah to face Portland three days later, all of that coming on the heels of a scoreless tie that seemed devoid of decent scoring opportunities for Real Salt Lake.
“I'm really not concerned about who's going to put the ball in the back of the net,” Cassar said. “I'm just concerned about making sure we're getting the right numbers in the attack in spots that we want to.”
While Dallas sat back and defended in much of the second half on Saturday, Cassar said that, “Seattle's more of a team that I think the game will be a little bit more open. So, hopefully, that will suit us.”