SANDY — Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis always said replacing Javier Morales would be a team effort. No one player was capable of filling those big-money shoes.
In the four matches since Morales went down, Collen Warner has been handed two starts at attacking midfield, while Andy Williams and Ned Grabavoy have each had one. Warner got the nod in last Saturday's win against Vancouver, and Kreis said the second-year player took some positive steps forward from his first start there a few weeks ago.
Realistically, the improvement had to do with his willingness to work off the ball, not so much what he did on it.
"Collen Warner, in particular, we get at a lot to try and make defensive plays. We know how gifted he can be with the ball, and we need him to make defensive plays as well, and he got on the end of quite a few tackles," said Kreis.
Warner's commitment to defend resulted in four fouls caused and a yellow card in the 30th minute on a scissor tackle to Gershon Koffie.
Kreis said it's still too early to comment on whether Warner is settling well into the attacking midfielder role. However, based on his positive steps forward last weekend, odds are good he'll get another start in one of RSL's two road games this week.
RUSSELL QUESTIONABLE: RSL midfielder Robbie Russell was a late scratch from the lineup last Saturday because of a left groin strain.
RSL coach Jason Kreis is optimistic the defender will be available for this Wednesday's match at Columbus, but it's still a question mark.
"We'll see if he can train tomorrow and that will be the indication of whether he's available on Wednesday," said Kreis.
A FIRST: The accolades keep rolling in for Real Salt Lake's Jean Alexandre.
Two days after registering a goal and an assist — the first of his career — in RSL's 2-0 victory over Vancouver, Alexandre was named the MLS Player of the Week.
Alexandre is the second RSL player to earn the award this year, with Javier Morales winning the award back in Week 2.
Because of RSL's depleted front line, Alexandre was making just his second career start at forward against Vancouver and he definitely made the most of the opportunity.
READY TO ROLL: With games at Columbus and Philadelphia this week, and realistically no one backing him up, RSL striker Fabian Espindola knows he'll be expected to put in a pair 90-minute performances.
"I'm going to try, I have to. We don't have any forwards left. I hope I'm healthy for all these games," he said.
Asked if he'll try and conserve energy during the matches to remain fresh for the entire week, Espindola chuckled that it's a nice idea, "but when you get out there you give everything you've got."
That's especially true for Espindola, who only knows how to play in one gear anyway — full throttle.
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