Neither Jámison Olave nor Nat Borchers played in Real Salt Lake's second-leg Western Conference Semifinal at Seattle on Wednesday, and each defender is listed as questionable for Sunday’s Western Conference Championship clash against the LA Galaxy (9 pm ET, ESPN, TSN2).
But those are just insignificant details to Bruce Arena.
“I’ll be honest with you – I’m expecting them to play. We’re planning on them playing,” the LA Galaxy coach told reporters in a conference call on Friday.
Real Salt Lake saw their two standout center backs leave the first leg of their series against the Sounders with injuries. Olave lasted just 32 minutes before being replaced by Chris Schuler, while Borchers was taken off after 84 minutes in the 3-0 win over Seattle.
Against Seattle in the second leg, Schuler and Chris Wingert paired together in the heart of RSL’s defense as lost 2-0 but held on for a 3-2 win on aggregate.
And if Arena’s expectations are wrong?
“[Olave and Borchers] are a little more experienced than the combination of Schuler and Wingert, but any way Salt Lake lines up in the back, they’ve got a good group,” Arena said. “I don’t see the level dropping down a whole lot. We fully anticipate a very difficult match.”
The "Bor-lave" tandem is solid as a pair as well as individually. RSL allowed just 36 goals all season, the second-fewest in the league behind the Galaxy, who gave up a league-low 28 goals. In 2010, Olave beat out Borchers and the LA Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez for MLS Defender of the Year.
Arena may not be sending a team of physicians to help the RSL duo step onto The Home Depot Center’s field on Sunday, but he’s not scrambling for Olave-Borchers voodoo dolls either.
“Naturally, I want to see the best players on the field and I’m hopeful that Olave and Borchers do get back on the field," he said. "That would be terrific for Salt Lake and certainly it will make for a great game. It’s going to be a great game whether they’re playing or not because I think we’re playing a very fine team."
Luis Bueno covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @RunnerLuis