SANDY — Nelson Gonzalez is fit and ready to contribute, and the timing couldn't be better for Real Salt Lake.
With Javier Morales out for potentially the entire season, and Will Johnson, Arturo Alvarez and Alvaro Saborio expected to be called in by their respective national teams for the CONCACAF Gold Cup in early June, RSL is going to need contributions from every attacking option.
After coming into training camp out of shape, Gonzalez finally made his first appearance of the season as an 85th-minute substitute in last Saturday's 0-0 draw with Houston.
Gonzalez is a dynamic outside midfielder who started three games last year while appearing in nine others despite battling a variety of injuries. When healthy, he's a great option for coach Jason Kreis.
RSL's coaching staff always knew Gonzalez wouldn't be ready to contribute right away. The 22-year-old Argentine got married just before the preseason, and the coaching staff didn't want to discourage him from all of the "once-and-a-lifetime experiences" that go along with a wedding and honeymoon.
"We knew we were going to have an unfit Nelson join us, and if you looked at him relative to the rest of the group, he was really, really unfit because the rest of the group was extremely fit," said Kreis.
Real Salt Lake began training camp on Jan. 20, but it wasn't until three weeks ago that Gonzalez was finally deemed fit enough to contribute.
"We made a commitment to him and to ourselves that he wouldn't be in consideration to play until he reached a certain weight level and a certain fitness level," said Kreis in the build-up to last week's match with Houston. "Over the past two weeks, I've seen improvement every day in training and I'm hopeful that he'll be contributing over the next several weeks."
PROMISING STEP: RSL midfielder Luis Gil, 17, is another player who will need to step up in the coming months. He's getting some good practice to prepare himself.
Gil is in France participating in a six-day training camp with the U.S. Under-20 National Team. On Wednesday, he scored a goal in a 3-3 tie with France, and the teams are scheduled to play again later this week.
The contributions are encouraging for Kreis.
"We need him to be influential. We need him to be a player that shows at that level and with players his own age that he can score goals and make assists because he is going to need to contribute when he gets back," said Kreis.
Before returning, though, Gil will be participating in the Lisbon International Tournament with the U.S. Under-18 squad.
A good showing with the 18s and the 20s could position Gil nicely for an increased role when he rejoins his club team.
ARNOUX DINGED UP: RSL forward Cody Arnoux took a slight step backward in his recovery process on Wednesday.3 comments on this story
Arnoux has been rehabbing from a micro-fracture surgery on his left knee since signing with RSL in February. He's been making good progress over the past few months, and Wednesday he participated in RSL's small-sided training drills. Unfortunately for Arnoux, he took a hard knock and sprained the MCL on his right knee.
It's not the same knee that he had the micro-fracture surgery on, and it shouldn't keep him out any longer, as he'll rehab both knees concurrently over the next month. As of now, there's no set timetable for his return though.