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Chris Kamrani
Chris Kamrani covers Real Salt Lake for the Tribune.

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Absences for Gold Cup won't make things any easier for RSL

Life has been challenging enough for RSL the past few weeks.

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But it's not getting any easier.

Four of its players have been named to national team rosters for the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament, being played at various locations around the United States. And even though only three of them will actually leave RSL, the departures will render the team significantly shorthanded for the next few weeks as it tries to regain its top form after scoring just once in its last four Major League Soccer games.

Forwards Alvaro Saborio and Arturo Alvarez already have left to join Costa Rica and El Salvador, respectively, while midfielder Will Johnson will take off to join Canada after RSL plays the Seattle Sounders at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night.

Goalkeeper Nick Rimando was named to the U.S. roster, too, but only as a stand-by choice. Rimando will not leave RSL unless the Americans need to replace Tim Howard or Marcus Hahneman for some reason.

The departures were probably part of the reason we didn't see forward Fabian Espindola during the lightning-delayed scoreless draw at FC Dallas last night.

With Saborio and Alvarez gone now, and fellow forward Paulo Junior still working his way back from a hamstring injury, the hard-working Argentine seemingly will have to comprise the thrust of RSL's attack in the coming weeks, and coach Jason Kreis probably wanted to take every opportunity to make sure he's fully fit, rested and ready to take on that job.

And once Johnson leaves, we might see a fair bit of tinkering in the midfield.

Attacking mid Javier Morales is out for months with his ankle injury, of course, and RSL still is searching for the best possible option to replace him at his crucial position.

Both Collen Warner and Andy Williams have been given starts to try to win the job, but neither has sparkled, and Kreis is likely to do some mixing and matching with Ned Grabavoy, Nelson Gonzalez and Jean Alexandre in search of a winning combination. Who knows? Maybe we even catch another glimpse of Luis Gil before long.

Veteran captain Kyle Beckerman figures to remain anchored at defensive mid, at least, which should continue to help a defense that has kept RSL in the league title hunt — the team has allowed just two goals in eight games — but it's going to be awhile before RSL can field a true first-choice lineup again.

The Gold Cup group stages are scheduled to run June 5-14, meaning Saborio and Alvarez will miss at least four games (three for Johnson) before potentially returning for the June 18 home game against D.C. United — but only if their respective national teams do not advance to the knockout rounds.

Anybody whose team reaches the knockout stages will miss one more RSL game for every round he progresses, since the quarterfinals will be played on June 18, the semifinals on June 22 — when RSL plays at Chicago — and the final on June 25, when RSL is home against Toronto FC.



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