SANDY — Two months ago, Real Salt Lake’s depth at center back was a definite strength. Now, general manager Garth Lagerwey is one bad X-ray away from scouring the market for some reinforcements.
RSL’s center back depth chart took a major hit last week when Kwame Watson-Siriboe underwent season-ending knee surgery.
The big question mark, however, revolves around Chris Schuler. The oft-injured center back hasn’t played since May 11 because of foot pain that the club fears could develop into a stress fracture.
As of now, there’s no timetable for his return. With that said, Lagerwey said RSL’s training staff will take another X-ray of Schuler’s foot within two to four weeks to see if the “stress response” injury has gone away.
If it has, Schuler can resume training. If it hasn’t, surgery will be necessary if Schuler expects to avoid any more significant injuries.
“I think if we got a diagnosis he was going to be out for a long time then you’d have to look very seriously at a trade,” said Lagerwey.
Last year Schuler missed more than four months because of a stress fracture in the same left foot — an injury that forced RSL to trade for Watson-Siriboe. This season though, the injury was caught before it developed into a stress fracture, so the club is optimistic Schuler won’t need midseason surgery.
If he does require surgery, Nat Borchers, Carlos Salcedo and Aaron Maund would be Real Salt Lake’s only three healthy center backs with half the season remaining. Outside back Chris Wingert has proved he can play center back in a pinch, which is the simplest fix for Lagerwey moving forward.
“We’re looking at defenders, but I don’t know that our first choice is to add a defender. If we can address it within the group, that’s going to be our preference,” said Lagerwey.
That would be an inexpensive solution, as would inviting and then signing a trialist.
Luis Gil’s status could put a wrinkle in the replacement hunt as well. Gil is currently playing with the United States in the U.S. Under-20 World Cup in Turkey, and he’s enjoyed a strong tournament so far. European suitors will almost inevitably make inquires with MLS and RSL about acquiring Gil during the July 8 through Aug. 9 transfer window.
If Real Salt Lake lost Gil, it would be compensated with more than enough allocation money to sign an expensive center back replacement.
Lagerwey would rather not go center back shopping midseason, but Schuler’s chronic foot injuries might make it unavoidable.