Nat Borchers' return brings calm, confidence to Real Salt Lake
Here was Nat Borchers running at full speed, screaming at the top of his lungs.
Here is what a "calming effect" looks like for Real Salt Lake.
After missing all of the club's preseason and its first three matches of the 2013 campaign, the veteran defender was back on the field last weekend at FC Dallas. And while a depleted RSL squad gave up a pair of second-half goals in a losing effort, the center back's return has his teammates hopeful for better things ahead.
"Having him out there, you just feel so much more confident," said left back Chris Wingert, himself still trying to get back from an offseason training injury.
Borchers' right quad had been a persistent problem for him dating back to 2011. But when he wasn't responding to rehabilitation this offseason, Borchers underwent surgery in January to repair the torn tendon.
Teammates and coaches lauded Borchers' willingness to mentor young center backs Chris Schuler and Kwame Watson-Siriboe as he worked to get back to full strength.
But now that he's healthy, RSL is plenty happy to see Borchers back in the lineup.
"I think the biggest thing about Nat is his leadership," coach Jason Kreis said. "Leadership, communication and organization Â he brought those things to our game the other night."
Borchers' season debut with Salt Lake's first team (he played 70 minutes in a reserve match two weeks ago), brought mixed reviews from Kreis. But Borchers will likely have to play a major role if Real is to come away with three points when the Seattle Sounders come to Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday.
Historically, having the center back in the lineup has meant good things for RSL.
When Borchers returned to Major League Soccer in 2008, after two seasons in Norway, RSL was coming off 6-15-9 season that saw them finish last in the West. But Borchers saw hope and a chance for a fresh start for both RSL and himself.
In Norway, Borchers' club, Odd Grenland, had just been relegated, and he found himself on the outs with the coaching staff.
"Given the situation I was in, I was willing to go anywhere," he said.
Kreis said he remembered playing against Borchers, but knew little about him. But then-RSL assistant Robin Fraser, who played with Borchers in Colorado, knew Salt Lake could benefit from Borchers' skills.
"He had a very good feeling and pushed hard to get Nat here," Kreis said, "and I'm very glad he did."
"He does a lot more than people realize," Wingert, Borchers' fellow defender, said. "Fortunately he's gotten a little credit the past couple of years, but he deserves that and more. The guys in our locker room know how important he is to this team."
Seattle Sounders at Real Salt Lake
O At Rio Tinto Stadium (Sandy)
Kickoff • Saturday, 7 p.m. TV • CW30
Records • Seattle 0-2-1; RSL 1-2-1
About the Sounders • Â Seattle beat RSL 1-0 on aggregate in last year's Western Conference Quarterfinals. â¦ Sounders are coming off a 1-0 loss at San Jose. â¦ The team is off to its worst start since joining MLS in 2009.
About Real Salt Lake • Â RSL extended its Texas winless streak with a 2-0 loss at FC Dallas last week. â¦ The team gets back five starters who missed the Dallas match with international duty. â¦ Alvaro Saborio remains the team's lone goal scorer on the year with three.