Sandy • Thin is the apt description up top at the moment for Real Salt Lake. Already minus star forward Alvaro Saborio, off vying for a spot on Costa Rica’s 23-man World Cup squad, RSL’s depth will be put to the test this weekend. Joao Plata left Saturday’s match against FC Dallas after reaggravating his left hamstring. His dynamic playmaking ability and speed will likely not be part of the equation this weekend when RSL visits league-leading Seattle.
“It’s not as bad as we thought,” RSL coach Jeff Cassar said of Plata’s injury. “I’m sure everything is day-to-day with him in seeing how we’re doing. We want to make sure this doesn’t happen again, so we’re going to do what’s best for Joao.”
Plata pulled up lame Saturday as he did in RSL’s home opener on March 22, which became a hamstring issue that forced him to miss the next three games. With the absence of their two starting forwards, Devon Sandoval picked up a knock against FC Dallas, Cassar said. Throw in Robbie Findley, who made his 2014 debut Saturday after offseason knee surgery, and the lone totally healthy forward is Olmes Garcia. Sandoval, Findley and Garcia have yet to tally a goal in 2014.
“We’ve gone a lot of different places in this league and gotten results with lots of different people and personnel,” said RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy. “Whoever’s selected for the weekend will be more than ready to go and our group has more confidence in whoever is selected.”
A jagged road ahead
At Seattle. At Columbus three days later. At home against a motivated Portland three days after that.
The final three matches before the official Major League Soccer break for the 2014 FIFA World Cup are going to test still-unbeaten RSL. General manager Garth Lagerwey said he looks at May 31 through June 7 as the toughest week of the season for his club. Down three stars due to international duty and untimely injuries piling up, odds are starting to stack against 6-0-6 RSL.
“I think this is as tough as it comes,” Lagerwey said. “It’s the last long road trip of the season as well. There’s a lot riding on these three games. To state the obvious, we don’t have all of our healthy bodies … we’re going to need everybody. We could literally be using every healthy body we have over the course of these next three games.”
Clint Dempsey is preparing for the World Cup with teammate DeAndre Yedlin and RSL’s Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando. But Seattle’s other star scorer, Obafemi Martins, is simply terrorizing back lines. The 29-year-old Nigerian international has five goals and six assists and has led first-place Seattle to a swift start out of the gates.
Nat Borchers knows he’ll have his hands full at CenturyLink Field Saturday afternoon.
“He’s got just so many skills, so many weapons in his arsenal,” he said. “It’s very tough to defend a guy like that.”
Real Salt Lake at Seattle Sounders
P Saturday, 2 p.m.
TV • CW30