SANDY — Sometimes a coach can say more by saying nothing.
That was indeed the case with Jason Kreis in last Saturday's postgame press conference following Real Salt Lake's frustrating 1-1 tie with D.C. United.
When asked to comment on what midfielder Collen Warner can do to become more involved and avoid disappearing for long periods of a match, RSL's coach simply said, "No comment."
It was a strange answer from a coach who almost always puts a positive spin on questions that are critical of his players.
Two weeks ago following RSL's 2-0 home win at Vancouver, a match in which Warner was average at best, Kreis emphasized Warner's willingness to get into a few tackles when asked to assess Warner's performance. He made no mention of his contributions with the ball.
That's becoming a trend for Warner. In his four starts since Javier Morales' injury, Warner has zero goals and zero assists.
He missed a golden opportunity on a breakaway against D.C. United when a heavy touch got away from him and trickled easily to the charging keeper.
Real Salt Lake has always been high on Warner's abilities, a big reason it drafted him in the first round of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft. Throughout RSL's busy schedule last fall while juggling Champions League qualification, Warner was given random starts and for the most part held his own.
The opportunities have been much more regular since Morales broke his ankle in early May, and Kreis' "No comment" seems to confirm he isn't pleased with how Warner is handling the increased responsibility.
All four of Warner's starts since the Morales injury have been at attacking midfield, and he's the first to admit it's been tough. He believes he's gotten better each game, but he's struggling to keep up with the demands of the position.
"It's pretty tough to be involved every play, but it's something that's necessary in my position so it's definitely something I'm trying to work on for sure," said Warner.
RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy said Warner is a player with tremendous talents, but said he's definitely in a tough spot.
"I think Collen's doing OK in there. It's just a tough situation because whoever plays in there is going to give us a very different look than Javier gives us," said Grabavoy. "He's just a different player. I think people are going to get caught up in comparing to what Javier does."
Perhaps the comparisons need to start being made to teenager Luis Gil.
Following Warner's first start at attacking mid against Houston on May 15, Kreis assessed his performance by saying, "He didn't put the flag in the ground and say this position is mine, that's for sure."
Four games later, Warner still hasn't put the flag in the ground. If he doesn't claim the spot soon, perhaps RSL might be better off seeing how the 17-year-old Gil handles extended minutes.
Regarded as one of the best young players in the U.S., Gil has great upside. He's been training with RSL for over a year and is fairly comfortable with the demands placed on the midfielders.