With injuries piling up, Real Salt Lake's rookies get chance to shine
7 veterans already ruled out for RSL's opener at Los Angeles
Jason Kreis has always been a glass half full guy. That's how Real Salt Lake's coach is choosing to look at the 2012 preseason.
On the one hand, it's disconcerting that seven of his veteran players are injured this preseason, with several already ruled out for the March 10th opener at Los Angeles. On the other hand though, it's allowed the younger players to make greater strides more quickly.
"We knew we had a lot of new players, a lot of young players, and there was a lot of teaching to be done, so in some ways to have less numbers to be able to focus on these guys has been good. They've done really well and improved and understanding what we're asking little by little," said Kreis.
"Their development is moving forward and I think probably more so than if we had everybody healthy, so that's a good thing."
RSL general manager went so far as to say that four draft-day rookies have a good shot at making the team. That would be unprecedented in recent team history. No draft-day rookies made the team last year, with just two — Chris Schuler and Collen Warner — making the team in 2010 and only two — Jean Alexandre and Raphael Cox — making it in 2009.
According to Lagerwey, rookies Enzo Martinez, Sebastian Velasquez, Emiliano Bonfigli and Diogo de Almeida could all make the team.
The development of numerous rookies is good, but Kreis admits he's nervous that so many veterans won't have much of a preseason.
Kreis admitted that Alvaro Saborio, Nat Borchers and Will Johnson (groin) won't be ready for the season opener. Saborio and Borchers are getting back into the swing of things after offseason surgery, while Johnson needs sports hernia surgery and could be out for up to a month.
Four other RSL veterans, Jameson Olave, Chris Wingert, Tony Beltran and Javier Morales, are battling injuries of their own and have been limited in training. Kreis said he expects them to be ready for the season opener, but there's no telling how sharp they'll be.
"Not having everybody out there and healthy is not ideal, but it's something teams go through and unfortunately we're dealing with it this preseason," said Nick Rimando. "We just have to remember it's just the preseason, we don't want them coming back too soon and making it a long injury."
Borchers reiterated the MLS season is a marathon, not a sprint.
"All the injured guys realize that and nobody wants to come back too quickly. We've got to make sure everybody's ready," he said.
Real Salt Lake could play as many as 50 games this year, beginning on March 10 at Los Angeles and culminating at the MLS Cup on Dec. 1. Borchers believes RSL's technical staff has assembled a group of guys that can be successful throughout the busy calendar.
"I think we have a lot of depth this year. The staff has brought in a lot of good players. I'm looking forward to seeing who we're going to sign in the next week or so," said Borchers. "I'm confident that we're going to have enough depth to get through the early part of the season which it looks like it might be the toughest part of our season."
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