Real Salt Lake fans would be forgiven wondering who exactly is leading the defense at training camp in Casa Grande, Ariz., right now, but the answer is clear: Chris Schuler.
The fourth-year player out of Creighton has the most experience in an RSL uniform along the backline to begin camp, and he knows he has some big shoes to fill in that role.
"I hadn't really thought about it like that, but there is a little bit more weight and need to show a little more leadership," he MLSsoccer.com. "I try to lead a little more vocally, make sure that guys are in the right spots."
No one would ever call Schuler outspoken off the field, but he says he changes that on the pitch.
"On the field, I need to be more vocal and keep everyone on the same page," the 25-year-old explained. "A big part of RSL's defense is keeping guys together in the right place and that is up to me to make sure they get there.
"I am working on it. I am always trying to be a better leader, but it isn't always that hard to be vocal, at least on the field, that is."
Schuler missed time in two of his first three seasons with RSL due to foot injuries. Last season, he missed nearly two-thirds of the season with the beginnings of a stress fracture, so he knows how important it is to stay healthy – especially right now while others on the backline are working their way back to health.
"With some of the moves [RSL] made in the offseason, I am an important part to stay out on the field so I am really concentrating on staying there," he explained. "I am keeping in tune with the trainers and doctors. There is always just a little more you can do, an ice session or little adjustments made to your training to stay healthy.
"I strengthened my foot in the offseason, but really now it is just having open conversations with the training staff to make sure we are doing everything we can to stay healthy."
There have been whisperings that should Schuler be able to stay healthy, he could eventually work his way into a camp with the US men's national team. Other people have said it, but he knows there is still a lot of work to be done before that happens.
"It is not something I concentrate on, but I do think about trying to improve to get called up," said Schuler. "Everyone's goal is to get to that far. I try to control what I can, try to improve. Obviously, it is something I would love to do, but I wouldn’t even say it is in the back of my mind. I just want to be the best center back I can possibly be."