Sandy • The Real Salt Lake injury merry-go-round remains circling just four weeks into the 2014 Major League Soccer season. Jeff Cassar gave updates on several of the club’s key players working their way back from strength training to full fitness and eventually into consideration for a match-day roster.
Out for Saturday’s match against visiting Toronto FC are Robbie Findley (knee), Aaron Maund (hamstring), Sebastian Velasquez (hamstring), Jordan Allen (ankle) and Joao Plata (hamstring). Somewhere between questionable and doubtful are Devon Sandoval (foot) and Kwame Watson-Siriboe (knee).
Cassar said Allen tried to work through the ankle injury sustained late in RSL’s 3-3 draw at San Jose on March 15, but it was too sore, so the staff decided to give the rookie a rest. Cassar added he expects Allen to participate fully in training starting next Tuesday.
Sandoval’s eventual — could be sooner than later — return to a match-day roster or lineup would be a huge addition to the suddenly-dwindling corps of strikers. The second-year forward trained fully the last three days of the week and said the lingering pain in his broken foot suffered in the first match of the Western Conference final series against Portland in 2013 feels better.
“I’m happy with how this week went and I just need to keep it going from here,” he said.
Sandoval said the broken foot, which didn’t require off-season surgery, felt fine in early January, but once RSL’s preseason started, the pain began to resurface, bothering the forward. The staff decided to shut it down in hopes of it regaining strength. He said the MRI taken on his foot showed areas of irritation in preseason, but along with the training staff, Sandoval has been able to figure out how to manage it.
“I feel good now,” he said.
Cassar said Sandoval’s looked better as the week wore on.
“We’re just looking for him get through [training sessions],” Cassar said. “The soccer will come, but really, working on his fitness, on his touch and just making sure we’re progressing enough to where he doesn’t have any setbacks. But he’s been great. He hasn’t been sore at all, which is fantastic.”
Like most of RSL’s injured players, the start to 2014 hasn’t been the ideal last few weeks for Velasquez. The midfielder pulled his hamstring in RSL’s final preseason scrimmage against FC Tucson in Tucson, Ariz., relaxed for a week only to have the same injury occur the Wednesday before the season-opening match at L.A.
And if that wasn’t enough to deal with, Velasquez pulled it again two weeks later.
“We took a precaution of two weeks, of just shutting everything down,” Velasquez said. “Luckily now I’m feeling a lot better, I’m able to strike a ball and starting getting to passing. Little by little, I’m progressing. [Before that] I haven’t been able to be on the field or touch a ball, so it’s been blowing my mind, I’ll be honest.”
But like Allen and Maund, Velasquez’s target date to get back training fully is Tuesday.
Having faced the most severe of rehabilitation of any player this off-season, forward Robbie Findley continues to strengthen his right leg after undergoing off-season surgery to repair a torn right patella tendon on his knee. Findley said Friday this injury has kept him away from playing longer than any other in his career
“It’s just about getting the motions back, getting that pattern of running that you’re used to doing,” Findley said, “but most importantly, just making sure you have the strength there, so you don’t re-injure yourself.”
Findley said his rehab is progressing well, reiterating at the time being it’s about trying to add strength to his knee and leg to get back to where he was. While the club anticipated a May or June return to form, Findley said if things keep going the way they are it could be sooner.
“Hopefully mid-April,” he said. “We’ll see. We’ll take it day-by-day and then we’ll go from there.”