MONTERREY, Mexico – As Real Salt Lake prepare for a monumental showdown with CF Monterrey at Estadio Tecnológico in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League finals on Wednesday (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer), there are some minor health concerns.
All of the RSL players participated fully in Monday’s practice with the exception of Cody Arnoux, who is recovering from knee surgery, and Paulo Jr., who suffered a hamstring strain in last week’s reserve match against Colorado. Both players spent most of the practice session running along the edge of the practice field.
Arnoux was never expected to be part of the 18-man roster on Wednesday, and it looks like Paulo Jr. is unlikely to make that group as well.
“As of right now, I’d say he looks very doubtful,” RSL head coach Jason Kreis told MLSsoccer.com. “He hasn’t trained the last two days.”
Although the Brazilian striker is likely the only game-day usual the team will be missing due to injury, there are two other players who will probably be in the lineup with significant injuries of their own.
It appears Nick Rimando will definitely start in goal. The veteran ‘keeper is still playing with the “floating” particles in his ankle that came from a piece of a bone spur that broke off a few weeks ago. However, he has played several games since the condition was discovered, and while it’s painful, it won’t to keep him out of action or dramatically impede his abilities within a game.
Teammate Will Johnson, however, will be trying out his thumb injury for the first time in a game setting. The midfielder broke his thumb when he tangled up with New England’s Kevin Alston in a spectacular tackle with momentum pushing Johnson into the sideline boards.
“I don’t see it affecting my play," stated the Canadian international.
However what form of protection he takes for the injured thumb on Wednesday is a bit unclear.
“I can remove it,” said Johnson of the cast that currently resides on the injured digit, adding that he may choose to replace the cast with a less bulky splint. “I still don’t know exactly what I’m going to play with, if I play. It’s just another challenge. It’s a bit of a pain in the butt to deal with, whether I wear a cast or a splint or whatever.”
Johnson is concerned as much about the necessary wrap that would have to be placed over the cast, as he is the cast itself. Unfortunately there is no clear “rule of thumb” in these situations, and he won’t know the referee’s thoughts on the matter until just prior to the game.
“I think it’s up to the discretion of the referee – that it has to be safe and it can’t be used as a weapon,” explained Johnson. “Whatever I put on, it has to meet the approval of the referee.”