SANDY, Utah — Less the three weeks ago, Real Salt Lake defender Chris Wingert suffered a broken rib and a pneumothorax early in his team's 4-2 playoff win over Portland. On Dec. 7, Sporting Kansas City just might look out on the field and see him facing off against them.
Wingert and Salt Lake's leading scorer, Alvaro Saborio, are the team's biggest question marks as they prepare to take on Sporting in MLS Cup (4 pm ET, ESPN, UniMas, TSN2/RDS in Canada). Both worked out with the team this week, and RSL head coach Jason Kreis said it's “very likely” that Saborio will be available for the match.
Whereas Saborio is working his way back from a pulled muscle he suffered in the playoff win over the LA Galaxy on Nov. 7, Wingert was hospitalized and needed surgery for the pneumothorax after his injury in the first leg of RSL's series against Portland. He fouled Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri, but took a knee to the chest in the process, breaking his rib and injuring his lung.
Working out with the team, Wingert said he feels “great,” but he acknowleded that his doctors “are still just a little bit nervous that if I was to get hit there, that it could break again.”
“The rib's not completely healed, because it's only been a couple weeks,” he told reporters. “But it feels really good. And the lung is healthy. We just don't want to do anything to make it worse.”
Which is why he didn't fly to Portland to see his teammates eliminate the Timbers. And why he didn't fly home to New York for Thanksgiving.
“All my focus is to try to prepare to play, and we'll see where we're at a week from now,” Wingert said “Hopefully, I'm healthy enough to at least make it a tough decision on Jason and the staff and possibly be able to help the team.”
Kreis sounded optmistic about Wingert's chances, as well. Cautiously optimistic.
“I think the biggest concern for Chris will be pain tolerance and then protecting that rib,” Kreis said. “He's handling the pain tolerance extremely well, and we leave it to our trainers and doctors to do a good job of padding up that rib.”
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Maybe padding it a bit more given that RSL's MLS Cup opponent, Sporting Kansas City, has a reputation among some as the league's most physical team.
“That's not really entering my mind,” Wingert said. “And, hopefully, I'll be the one making the challenges and not the other way around. Unfortunately, in the last game, that's actually what happened. I was the one making the tackle and ended up getting injured.”
Still, he's “dying to be out there. You only get a few times in your life to play in a championship game.”
“But the guys have been playing awesome without me. And I want to win as much as everybody else. So if that means that somebody else should be playing, so be it.”