SANDY — Chris Schuler stood calmly along the back line of the Real Salt Lake defense right before kickoff Saturday afternoon.
Having recovered from a nagging ankle injury, Schuler took the pitch for RSL for the first time since the MLS Cup final in mid-December.
He was a welcome presence on the RSL back line, namely against 6-foot-5 L.A. Galaxy forward Rob Friend, according to Salt Lake coach Jeff Cassar.
“I was really pleased. He was battling Rob Friend most of the night and won most of those challenges. I was really proud of him,” said Cassar.
Fellow defender Nat Borchers echoed those remarks in the locker room following a 1-1 draw.
“I thought Schuler had a great game. He was physical with Rob Friend. He won all those battles in the air,” said Borchers.
Schuler remains day to day, and admitted he’s not quite 100 percent yet.
“No, definitely not. It’s something I’m going to deal with for a long time, but I feel good and I felt like I was not limited at all,” said Schuler. “Our trainers, and the guys over at physical therapy ... have helped me get back to fitness. Jeff has done a great job giving me some time to recover from all the time away. It’s not something I still think about, and have to treat it, but I feel good.”
“We’ll see how he’s feeling (Sunday), because that’s the key with Chris is how he does the next day,” said Cassar. “So we’ll watch them closely.”
SUB IN HAND: While L.A. coach Bruce Arena was forced to use up all three substitutions, Cassar kept his third and final sub in his pocket. The decision was made on his confidence in the RSL midfield, namely Luis Gil and newcomer Luke Mulholland.
“I felt that Luis and Luke were giving us the work offensively and Luke, especially, defensively,” Cassar said. “I just thought that combination of players out on the field was going to get it done. I didn’t want to change anything. We had a few chances there at the end, but the final pass wasn’t quite there.”
Javier Morales’ return to the starting lineup allowed Gil to set up the counter attack multiple times on the wing and through the midfield.
BATTLE IN THE MID: RSL captain Kyle Beckerman commanded the midfield Saturday afternoon as both teams struggled to penetrate into the attacking third.
Beckerman admitted it wasn’t the most brilliant match for the club, but it’s one that it'll take.
“It wasn’t our greatest soccer game, but I think that happens sometimes when it’s our first home game back in the altitude. So hopefully we’ll get more acclimatized this week and be ready to go next week,” said Beckerman. ““Four points home and away with the Galaxy, you’ll take that all day.”
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