Sandy • Kwame Watson-Siriboe is recovering from surgery. Chris Schuler limped around Friday’s training with a boot on his left foot. So against the Seattle Sounders on Saturday, it could very well be up to Carlos Salcedo to try to slow down some dangerous mixture of Eddie Johnson, Obafemi Martins, Mario Martinez and Lamar Neagle.
Salcedo’s coaches and teammates say he is up to the task.
“I feel really confident playing next to Carlos,” said Real Salt Lake defender Nat Borchers, who has seen a revolving door of center back partners this season.
Borchers touted the youngster’s effort to win balls, his footwork and his communication skills on the back line. But the veteran said Salcedo’s composure on the ball especially impressed him.
“Under pressure, he’s very cool and calm and you don’t find that really from young players,” Borchers said.
Salcedo won’t turn 20 until the end of September, and with midfielder Luis Gil playing with the U.S. youth national team in Turkey, Salcedo is the youngest player on RSL’s roster.
But that’s not his mentality.
“Before I jump into the field, I always think I’m one more,” Salcedo said. “I don’t feel I’m the youngest player. I think that helps me a lot.”
And while it’s rare for a teenage center back to be a starter, Salcedo doesn’t see it that way.
“Madrid has Varane,” he said of the 20-year-old Frenchman Raphael Varane.
Salcedo grew up in Mexico, training with the Tigres and Chivas Guadalajara youth academies before joining the RSL academy in January of last year. By July he was with the team in Salt Lake, training with the promise of joining the first team this year.
Salcedo impressed coaches early in the year, before being derailed by an early season concussion. But after working himself back, Salcedo became the first RSL academy graduate to make a first-team appearance when he entered in the 89th minute at home against Vancouver.
Four days later, Salcedo was in the starting lineup in New England.
His current opportunity comes at the expense of his teammates. Watson-Siriboe, a 26-year-old, had made seven starts for RSL this year before rupturing his ACL and tearing his meniscus last week during a reserve match in Phoenix. Schuler, meanwhile, is dealing with a lingering foot issue, and RSL coach Jason Kreis said team doctors will reevaluate the center back when the boot is taken off his left foot in two weeks.
But Kreis said Real is comfortable with Salcedo and second-year pro Aaron Maund.
“Carlos in particular has given us some really successful minutes with the first team,” Kreis said. “We feel like we shouldn’t miss much.”
“Carlos has proven that he can play in this league,” goalkeeper Nick Rimando said. “He’s young. He’s eager. He’s doing everything he can to improve, and the more games he plays the better he’s going to be.
“He’s still going to make some mistakes back there. That’s the situation we’re in. But he’s the type of player who is going to put his hand up when he makes a mistake and improve.”
Sounders at RSL
O At Rio Tinto Stadium
Kickoff • Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
TV • ABC4
Records • RSL 8-5-3 (27 points); Seattle 6-4-3 (21 points)
Last meeting • RSL 2, Sounder 1 (March 30)
About RSL • Salt Lake is 7-1-1 across all competition since the beginning of May. ... Saturday’s match will be the sixth game of what has become a seven-game homestand thanks to U.S. Open Cup play. ... RSL midfielder Luis Gil and Seattle defender DeAndre Yedlin are both playing for the U.S. in the U-20 World Cup in Turkey. ... RSL gets back a number of players from international duty, including Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman, and Alvaro Saborio. ... Saborio and forward Olmes Garcia lead RSL in goals with four.
About the Sounders • Seattle has come alive after a slow start to the season and is now 5-1-1 in its last seven MLS games. ... Forward Obafemi Martins has found his stride, scoring four goals in six games since the loss at RSL in March. ... Lamar Neagle has scored four goals and notched three assists since May 11. ... Three usual starters, Eddie Johnson, Brad Evans and Mario Martinez, all played significant minutes at Rio Tinto Stadium on Tuesday — Johnson and Evans for the U.S., and Martinez for Honduras.