SANDY — Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis said it was just a coincidence that he gave his four oldest players the night off in a relatively meaningless regular-season finale on Saturday night.
He said the thirty-somethings were all dinged up or sick.
Javier Morales was scheduled to start, but he came down with the flu on Saturday morning. Nick Rimando, Nat Borchers and Jamison Olave were all dealing with slight injuries, and Kreis wasn't willing to risk further injury in the playoffs.
That's particularly the case with Borchers and Olave. RSL's center back tandem dealt with injuries throughout the playoffs last year, and Kreis wants to avoid a repeat of that scenario at all costs.
Kreis said he originally planned on starting Borchers, but the two agreed it was best not to risk his lingering quadriceps injury against Vancouver. Olave is still experiencing a bit of pain in his hamstring, and Kreis acknowledged holding him out another week was a no-brainer.
"We weren't willing to take the risk and further their injury in the last match and be unavailable for playoffs," said Kreis.
Fellow defender Chris Schuler wasn't available either because of the quad strain he picked up in Tuesday's match with Herediano.
With three of four center backs out, Chris Wingert and Kwame Watson-Siriboe got the start in the heart of the defense. It was Watson-Siriboe's first action since Sept. 9 and Wingert's first action at center back since a 2-0 loss in Columbus back on June 30.
READING TO ROLL IN PLAYOFFS: Ned Grabavoy was back in the starting line-up for Real Salt Lake on Saturday for the first time since the team's 2-1 victory over Portland on Sept. 22.
He injured his quad the next week of training, but all along he and RSL's trainers were targeting a healthy return by the playoffs.
"It felt good, for sure. A little step slow with reactionary stuff," said Grabavoy.
The midfielder logged 63 minutes in his first match in a month before he was subbed off by rookie Sebastian Velasquez.
"Positive contribution for him tonight and showed that he should be ready and available for selection next week," said Kreis.
HISTORIC PERFORMANCE: By holding Vancouver scoreless through the first 15 minutes on Saturday night, Real Salt Lake became just the second team in MLS history to not allow a goal in the opening 15 minutes of any match this season.
Houston accomplished the feat as well back in 2009.
The earliest goal RSL surrendered this season was a 16th-minute goal at Columbus in a 2-0 loss back on June 30.
SAVING THE GOALS: After the match, Kreis addressed the Rio Tinto Stadium sellout crowd over the P.A. system and thanked them for a great season. Saturday was the team's sixth straight sellout and the 11th in 19 home matches this year.
He also tried to drum up excitement for next week's playoffs.
"We're saving the goals for the playoffs," said Kreis.
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