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

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Coach hoping cautious approach with injured regulars pays off for RSL

Midfielder Will Johnson won't be rushed back from sports hernia surgery. Outside back Tony Beltran won't be pushed to play on an injured knee before it's totally healed, and central defender Nat Borchers, forward Alvaro Saborio and midfielder Javier Morales have been afforded all the time they need to recover from offseason surgery.

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Consider it the new world order at RSL.

Coach Jason Kreis has resolved to be more patient this season, even with the fleet of new players destined to cut their teeth in place of the injured regulars. After injuries wrecked last season and led directly to the team's playoff exit, Kreis is being ever more mindful that it's a long season, and better to have your best players fit at the end.

"Typically, I think we've always been very concerned about the beginning of the season, and how we're going to start, how important the matches are at the beginning of the season," he said. "But I think this year we're taking a little bit more of a patient approach, and saying that this is the time to get lots of players lots of experience, so that at the end of the year, when we have to rotate the teams, we know exactly what we have."

RSL opens its home season against the New York Red Bulls at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night, when several new players could feature again. Midfielder Sebastian Velasquez seems a logical choice in place of Johnson on the left side of the midfield, while newcomer Terukazu Tenaka could make his debut in place of Beltran, who took a blow to the back of his knee in the season-opening victory at Los Angeles last weekend.

"If this was a playoff game, maybe we would push him a little harder, see where we'd come out," Kreis said of Beltran. "But we won't. We'll take a very cautious approach, and I'd say there is very little chance he plays this weekend."

It's a strategy he hopes will pay off down the line, with a healthy core of regulars and an experienced group of reserves.

"If things come out the way we want them to come out, we could be very deep," he said. "It's just now, we just don't know. We could be very deep, we could not be very deep. There are still answers to be found."



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