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Real Salt Lake suddenly has a striker shortage

Published: Thursday, May 26 2011 6:54 p.m. MDT

LEHI — FC Dallas midfielder Marvin Chavez made a curious decision last week. Citing injury concerns with his club team, Chavez declined a call-up by the Honduras National Team to play in the CONCACAF Gold Cup next month.

It was a rare display of a player putting club before country.

Real Salt Lake is dealing with some equally serious injury concerns, yet none of its three foreign call-ups declined their respective invitation to the Gold Cup. Should RSL feel slighted?

Alvaro Saborio, Will Johnson and Arturo Alvarez could've easily declined their invitations like Chavez, but RSL coach Jason Kreis believes it's unfair to judge them based on what Chavez did.

"From the club's point of view, it's something you'd like, but you also have to understand it from the players' point of view. This is a major, major tournament and they all have opportunities to continue to impress and move their career along and make more money," said Kreis. "You can never hold it against players for representing their country in these type of tournaments."

Kreis said what Chavez did for FC Dallas was a great gesture, but it was definitely a unique one.

Kyle Beckerman, who missed a month of the MLS season two summers ago when he was participating in the Gold Cup with the U.S. National Team, said players always support their peers leaving for national team duty.

"When you have more guys in the national team, it definitely brings a high level back with them. We'll miss the guys that are gone, but hopefully in the long run it will be a positive for us," said Beckerman.

Fortunately for RSL, midfielder Will Johnson doesn't join the Canadian National Team until after this Saturday's match against visiting Seattle. After this weekend, though, Johnson will miss RSL's next three matches and possibly more if Canada advances out of group play.

Forwards Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica) and Arturo Alvarez (El Salvador) have already joined their respective national teams and won't be available for a minimum of four matches.

The timing of their departure couldn't be worse.

Real Salt Lake has seven forwards listed on its roster, but only Fabian Espindola is a realistic option this weekend.

Paulo Jr.'s hamstring injury has now become a hip flexor injury and he'll be out at least another month. Cody Arnoux is still a long way from fully recovering from offseason knee surgery. Donny Toia, 18, is just a few months removed from being promoted from the RSL Academy and might not contribute for a couple of years.

As for Conor Chin, an offseason signee after he was released by New York, Kreis believes realistic contributions from him are a long ways off.

"If you see him every day in the training, he's making a lot of mistakes that players make when they first join our team," said Kreis. "We value possession so highly, especially from the forwards, we need them to hold the ball up, we need them to play quickly, we need them to complete passes. That stuff's just not getting done right now."

For the first time in his coaching career, Kreis said he's been forced to look around and figure out who can play different positions.

Jean Alexandre seems to be the most logical to get the start at forward against Seattle.

He was a prolific goal scorer at Lynn University in Florida, he enjoyed success starting at forward while on loan with Austin in 2009, and two weeks ago against Houston, he replaced an ineffective Alvarez up top in the final 15 minutes.

"It's not a position I'm foreign to. I kind of know what I'm doing there," said Alexandre.

Unless Alexandre torches the nets over the next month, his move to forward will only be a temporary one. RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy believes Alexandre has enough flair on the ball and is strong enough with his back to the goal to be effective up top if he's called upon.

EMAIL: jedward@desnews.com

TWITTER: @DesNewReal

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