If there is any position on Real Salt Lake that is a concern heading into the playoffs and the final stretch of the season, it is the second centerback spot.
While Nat Borchers is a surefire starter there, his rotating cast of partners has been the squad’s Achilles heel all season. With Chris Schuler hampered by injury for most of the season, Kwame Watson-Siriboe out for the season, and Brandon McDonald not being very good, the job has fallen to 19-year old Carlos Salcedo.
The rookie/academy product is unquestionably the best player to come out of Salt Lake’s Arizona Academy, and I suspect he’ll be around the club for a long time. For a young centerback, he plays pretty well, and he has a very bright future. But Friday’s loss in Seattle was a reminder that he’s still a rookie, as he made a few very bad plays.
“He’s still developing,” coach Jason Kreis said of Salcedo. “I think we need to be very clear and say that he hasn’t earned the starting position. He’s in the starting position at the moment but that might change this weekend.”
Kreis was alluding to Chris Schuler who has been getting healthy and training.
“Chris trained fully today, and I think, if we can get him through an entire week of training where he looks strong, he might be available for us this weekend,” Kreis said.
Don’t let the “might” in that sentence fool you. Kreis’ tone suggested that Schuler will likely be in the lineup this week, probably as a starter.
For RSL fans, that is great news. The Claret and Cobalt have managed to survive their poor defensive outings by scoring a team record number of goals this season, but that style of play typically doesn’t work in the playoffs. Squads are more than ready to get a lead and completely shut things down in the playoffs. One mistake or two can cost a team its season.
Getting a seasoned centerback in Schuler back into form and ready for a deep playoff run will be critical for Salt Lake to succeed. The good news is that it looks like he’s close.