Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SANDY — Real Salt Lake has legitimate injury concerns heading back to Seattle for the second leg of the Western Conference semifinals. Its two center backs are hobbling.
Jamison Olave was subbed off in the 32nd minute on Saturday with a right quadriceps strain, and then Nat Borchers was subbed off in the 84th minute with a left knee strain. Their status for the second game is unclear at this point.
"We'll hopefully be able to get them in the hospital tomorrow to do some tests and get it diagnosed as soon as possible," said RSL coach Jason Kreis.
RSL definitely has an advantage heading to Seattle with a 3-0 lead, but protecting a three-goal lead without its two best defenders could be tricky.
Chris Schuler replaced Olave when he left early in the match, and Schuler more than held his own. When Borchers went out, RSL didn't have any other defensive subs, so it shifted Chris Wingert to center back and dropped Will Johnson to left back.
They did a very good job of keeping the clean sheet over those final six minutes plus stoppage time.
For Schuler, it was his first minutes at central defense since starting and playing 90 minutes at home against Philadelphia on Sept. 21. He started four of eight matches during that stretch, but they were all at outside back as RSL dealt with injury concerns at that position between Wingert and Tony Beltran.
The second-year defender was a more than adequate fill-in having appeared in 20 games this season, including 16 starts.
"Let's credit Chris Schuler. Guys like that don't get enough credit. Do you know how hard it is a half hour into the game, 'Hey, by the way, get out there and get into the middle of an intense playoff game,' " said Wingert.
GRABAVOY MAKES A SPLASH: When Ned Grabavoy aggravated a groin injury on Oct. 6 at Vancouver, the Real Salt Lake training staff decided trying to get the midfielder back for either of the final two games of the season was a bad idea.
The goal was to have him ready for the playoffs. He was ready to start if called up on Saturday against Seattle, but the nod ending up going to Andy Williams.
Grabavoy eventually entered the match in the 79th minute for a tiring Javier Morales, and he certainly made a splash with a goal in the 88th minute.
"I was just glad to get in there and help anyway I could," said Grabavoy.
FUN WHILE IT LASTED: Saturday night was the first game since the Champions League final against Monterrey that RSL coach Jason Kreis was able to put his first choice lineup on the field.
The luxury lasted only 32 minutes before Olave strained his right quadriceps.
"I looked at Will (Johnson) and said, 'Well, it was nice why it lasted,' " said Wingert.
With everything RSL has been through with juggling lineups, the players on the field just shrugged it off.
"Let's be honest, we have a lot of guys on this team who can step up and get the job done," said Wingert. "That's part of a good team, you've got to have a little bit of depth with what comes. We play a physical game and sometimes guys get injured."
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