Carson, Calif. • Even with his hand broken and wrapped in a padded cast, defender Chris Schuler had been Real Salt Lake's early-season iron man.
When midfielder Luis Gil sat out last weekend's game in Montreal, Schuler became the lone RSL man to have started every match of the year.
That streak broke Sunday, when Schuler was taken out of RSL's top 11. Before that, Schuler had played in every minute of every match for Salt Lake.
"I think there's no one clear answer there," RSL coach Jason Kreis said about Schuler's absence from the starting lineup. "I think it's everything wrapped together. Chris has been a little inconsistent that last couple of weeks. It's that Chris has played all of the minutes until now so it's natural for him to have some fatigue, plus he's been dealing with an injury. And Carlos [Salcedo] has shown that he has deserved an opportunity."
The 25-year-old's potential certainly gave the RSL front office some added confidence as they dealt away veteran Jamison Olave in the offseason. But Schuler also brought with him a history of injuries.
Last season, Schuler suffered a foot injury just a few weeks into a promising year. It took him three months to recover, and he ended playing just 13 games all year. Kreis has said the team asked Schuler to avoid offseason training in his hometown of Chicago, where winter games are played indoors and on turf.
So far this year, Schuler's body has held up. His 1,080 minutes played this season have already surpassed last year's 944.
Instead, it was a coach's decision that ended the streak, as Kreis opted for the 19-year-old Salcedo in place of Schuler.
Surgery for Balchan
RSL lost some defensive depth this week, after back Rich Balchan underwent surgery Thursday to repair a dislocated left shoulder. Balchan dislocated his shoulder twice in the first 13 minutes of RSL's reserves match against the Los Angeles Galaxy on April 28.
Balchan had shoulder surgery Thursday for the second time in his career and is expected to miss four to six months.
The defender was the 11th overall pick in the 2011 MLS Draft and signed with RSL during the preseason after spending two years with the Columbus Crew. Balchan had made five appearances with the reserve team and one start in a friendly but had not made any appearances with RSL's first team.