SANDY, Utah – Most teams would be able to count on a two-week break as a period for recuperation in an otherwise hectic MLS season. Yet despite a 14-day respite from action, Real Salt Lake suddenly find themselves dealing with a rash of injuries.
Perhaps most serious is the situation at outside back, where the squad was already lean on experienced players.
“We went from incredibly healthy to being incredibly injured within a week to 10 days,” RSL head coach Jason Kreis told ESPN700 Sports Radio in Salt Lake City on Thursday.
At the outside back spots, only Tony Beltran (above) is fully healthy – Chris Wingert picked up a hamstring injury in the May 12 win at Seattle, and although he’s nearing a return he’s unlikely to see action when RSL host FC Dallas on Saturday (9 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
“He actually trained fully today, and so I think maybe in his mind he’s ready for this weekend but we’re a little bit hesitant,” said Kreis.
With another stretch of time off from league action after this game, it’s unlikely that the team will push for his return.
“I wouldn’t rule it out, but I’m hesitant right now,” GM Garth Lagerwey told MLSsoccer.com. “You’ve got one league game in the space of a month and so does it make sense to risk it in that one game, and I don’t know that it does.”
Wingert’s situation is problematic as the intended player to fit into the rotation in such situations is Terukazu Tanaka, but he has yet to fully find his form with RSL, having made just once first-team appearance since joining the RSL in March. In fact, against Seattle, Kreis called upon center back Chris Schuler to fill in for Wingert on the outside.
However, Schuler has also picked up an injury that has him on the shelf for three or four weeks, a knock that's being called a “stress fracture signal.”
“It’s something that shows up on an X-ray that isn’t a break, but can evolve into a break,” explained Lagerwey.
To make matters worse, Tanaka left training on Thursday with a slight muscle sprain, but he’s still expected to get the nod at outside back, though rookie Chris Estridge remains a possibility.
“Those guys are on our team, and one of them is going to get the opportunity and hopefully they take advantage of it,” said Lagerwey. “There are no free rides. It’s going to be a big opportunity for one of them to step up.”
In addition to the dearth of players at outside back, forwards Álvaro Saborío (knee swelling) and Paulo Jr. (dental infection) have question marks by their name, but one or both are expected to be ready for this weekend’s match.