Real Salt Lake: Depth again shines as RSL remains unbeaten
Just when Real Salt Lake seemed to be regaining its overall strength and ready to put its injury-riddled beginning to 2014 in the rear view, several circumstances again called for more testing of the club's depth.
So far, RSL's depth has been up to the task.
In its highly talked-about MLS Cup final rematch with Sporting Kansas City, RSL (2-0-3) remained unbeaten thus far in 2014 with its 0-0 draw Saturday night at Sporting Park. While there were several usual suspects partaking in the rematch, some fresh faces surfaced in earning a point on the road.
Jeff Attinella, Rich Balchan and Abdoulie Mansally were thrown into the fire of one of Major League Soccer's hottest rivalries and again showed that the depth of this year's squad can show up when needed, even in the most difficult of matches.
"We feel confident sliding guys into certain spots, and we've shown that last year and we are prepared to show that again this year," said RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy.
Nick Rimando suffered a knee injury in Tuesday's U.S. men's national team 2-2 friendly draw against Mexico in Arizona. Tony Beltran, who also started the match for the U.S., suffered an ankle injury, and Chris Wingert battled a groin injury suffered in RSL's 3-0 win over Toronto FC on March 29.
RSL coach Jeff Cassar said Rimando and Beltran underwent MRIs last week and are expected to be re-evaluated Monday to determine their status for RSL's match at Philadelphia on Saturday.
Yet Attinella's outing in goal breathed a sigh of relief to those wondering what the anchor of RSL's back line would look like should Rimando earn a ticket to Brazil this summer with the U.S. Attinella, starting in his first match since Sept. 28, 2013, at Vancouver, was a wall when called upon, stopping several point-blank shots, including two breakaway attempts by Sporting KC's Dom Dwyer.
"I knew it was a good opportunity for me to get a chance to play, which you have to take advantage of, and I feel like I did a pretty decent job of that [Saturday]," Attinella said.
In his inaugural start with RSL, Balchan was tasked with slowing down Sporting KC star Graham Zusi and was solid in those 1-on-1 moments against one of the best attackers in MLS. After missing most of 2013 with a shoulder injury, Balchan's first start assured the depth along the back line goes beyond the center back position.
"He's confident and [Saturday] was a perfect time to get him into a game," Cassar said of Balchan. "He deserves it and when you haven't played many games and you're doing well in practice, it's a great time to get them into the lineup."
Now Cassar and the coaching staff may be forced to play musical chairs once again due to untimely, early-season injuries. Sebastian Velasquez (hamstring), Jordan Allen (ankle), Joao Plata (hamstring) and Robbie Findley (knee) remain out. The status of Rimando, Beltran and Wingert, remains unknown as RSL preps for another early-season road match, its fourth in its first six of 2014.
RSL enters the sixth week of the season with nine points, having used 17 different starters and 20 players in its unbeaten start.
"We showed we could get a result in a different way," Grabavoy said. "I think that's a positive to build on going forward throughout the season."
Real Salt Lake at Philadelphia
P Saturday, 2 p.m. MDT
TV • Ch. 4
Galaxy 3,Chivas USA 0
Carson, Calif. • Robbie Keane and Stefan Ishizaki scored goals late in the first half, Baggio Husidic added another shortly after halftime, and the Los Angeles Galaxy defeated rival Chivas USA 3-0 on Sunday.
Keane scored in the 37th minute, Ishizaki in the 41st and Husidic in the 56th for the Galaxy (1-1-1), who are 16-1-4 in the SuperClasico since the end of 2007. Ishizaki's and Husidic's goals were their first with L.A.