SANDY — Getting off to a good start has always been important for Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis. This year though, he's learning to be a bit more patient.
Instead of trying to rush his numerous banged-up starters back for the season-opener at Los Angeles, he allowed them to recover at their own pace.
"Typically we've always been very concerned about the beginning of the season and how we're going to start, and how important the matches are at the beginning of the season. And I think this year we're taking a little bit more of a patient approach and saying this is the time to get lots of players lots of experience," said Kreis.
A subtle benefit to the change in philosophy is the emergence of rookie Sebastian Velasquez.
If Kreis had pushed the envelope with Javier Morales and started him last weekend, Velasquez wouldn't have had the opportunity to prove he's ready to contribute right away.
The 21-year-old rookie still has a lot to learn, but he proved himself to be a reliable midfielder in the RSL system, which strengthens the depth of the team immediately.
Kreis also said that by giving the newcomers minutes now, the coaching staff will have a better idea of who is capable of making larger contributions when the schedule gets busier later this year with CONCACAF Champions League group games.
Knowing that, it's extremely doubtful defender Tony Beltran plays this weekend. He tweaked his knee early in last weekend's game against Los Angeles, but still managed to get through the 90 minutes even though he said his leg "felt really lame" in the second half.
Beltran did technical work and a lot running in practice on Wednesday, and is hoping to contribute this weekend. Kreis said that's not very likely.
"If this was a playoff game maybe we'd push him a little bit harder and see where we'd come out, but we won't. We'll take a very cautious approach and I'd say there's very little chance he'll play this weekend," said Kreis.
Beltran's inevitable absence will open the door for defender Terukazu Tanaka to make his RSL debut against New York this Saturday.
RSL midfielder Will Johnson won't play this weekend either as he recovers from sports hernia surgery, and even though he expects to be back training 100 percent by next week, a return to the field is a few weeks away.
"(He's) another player that's probably going to be telling us that he's ready to play and we're going to be telling him we're not ready for you to play. We're going to be very cautious this year, and we're going to error on the side of waiting too long," said Kreis.
Johnson had sports hernia surgery in Germany a week ago. He said the recovery time is 10 to 14 days. If Velasquez and Luis Gil play well again in this Saturday's home opener against New York, it's unlikely Kreis will feel the need to rush Johnson back into the line-up.
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