SANDY, Utah — When you think about players with potential for picking up red cards in MLS, Real Salt Lake defender Nat Borchers probably isn't high on that list.
A man RSL head coach Jason Kreis calls “a cerebral player,” Borchers is known for recognizing developing situations on the field and for his cautious approach to the game. He consistently clears balls to safety that many other defenders in the league would try to deal with in a more complex fashion.
So it was a surprise to see Borchers pick up his second red card of the season against Chivas USA last weekend rendering him unavailable for Saturday’s contest against the Philadelphia Union (9 pm ET, watch LIVE online). The two red cards this year have been the defender's first since joining RSL in 2008. He did have three previous red cards (one each season) when he played for the Colorado Rapids before he ended his first stint with the league in 2005 to try his luck in Europe.
“I would like to think there is nothing to it,” said Borchers after a fitness session on Thursday, “but obviously you have to look at both of those situations.”
“I don’t consider it to be a situation where I’m racking up all kinds of red cards,” he reasoned. “I think that the red card against New England was a bad call. The Chivas game, last weekend, was a good call. It was fair. I denied their attacker a goal-scoring opportunity, and that’s in the rules of the game. I understand that. Moving forward, I just obviously need to be careful and not put myself in any difficult situations that get me sent off.”
Borchers' back-line partner, reigning MLS Defender of the Year Jámison Olave, has taken note of the strange role reversal.
“We don’t really talk about it, but two years ago I was the one going out for red cards,” said the burly Colombian, “and this year it’s Nat.”
In 2009, Olave was still trying to adjust to the league (and the league to him), and he picked up three red cards that season by virtue of his aggressive physical approach to the game. Since then, he has picked up just one red card, and doesn’t feel like there is anything to worry about with Borchers approach to the game this season.
“In soccer, you are never safe from red cards,” said Olave, “especially as a defender.”
Kreis feels that perhaps the added chaos of this season for RSL has created more strain on Borchers and others along the back line.
“I think it’s just a little bit circumstantial,” explained Kreis. “I think we’re dealing with a little more adversity this year, and probably a little bit more breakdowns in our play that our defenders have had to make really big plays, and our goalkeeper.
"Probably quite a few more than we had to make last year. That could be the reason Nat’s picked up two red cards.”