Frisco, Texas • Five were away on national duty, six were injured or ill. But one, much to everyone's relief, was back.
After missing the first three games due to an offseason quad injury that was expected to keep him sidelined until mid-April, veteran defender Nat Borchers made his season debut in RSL's 2-0 loss in Dallas.
"It felt great. I missed it so much, just having to watch games from the stadium seats," the 32-year-old said. "I felt like the first 15, 20 [minutes] I was still trying to find my legs, still trying to adjust to the speed of play, but I thought after that I felt really good and I was in spots to defend and doing well with the ball."
Borchers had an immediate impact defensively, but the defining play of his debut came in the 22nd minute. After FC Dallas forward Kenny Cooper crossed the ball, he waited for the ball to be passed twice more before Zach Loyd found him in front of the net. By then, RSL goalkeeper Josh Saunders had been pulled out position, leaving the veteran Cooper with an open net.
Until Borcher slid in.
"For us," Borchers said, "we were under it so much, weathering these storms from the back. Just the way we defend, we try to stick together and cover each other."
In the second half, though, Borchers and a cobbled-together backline, with Chris Schuler moved to the outside, couldn't keep up with FC Dallas' counterattack. The home team scored in the 71st and 81st minutes.
But Borchers' debut did not go unappreciated in the loss, least of all by coach Jason Kreis.
"It was good," Kreis said. "I think Nat's a born leader, vocal guy back there who helps us organize and keeps things pretty compact. So, pleased to have him back in the fold."