Santa Clara, Calif. • Leaning up against the wall outside of the visiting locker room on the campus of Santa Clara University, Chris Wingert did his best to roll through the expanding list of injuries.
Real Salt Lake’s start to the 2014 season has been an early success, earning four points with a win and draw in two difficult conference road games, but there’s a hovering cloud of uncertainty.
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"As players," Wingert said after rattling off a slew of injured names, "we just do what we can to try to get healthy."
Following a drama-filled 3-3 draw against the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday night — a match that didn’t feature first-team staples Javier Morales (back), Chris Schuler (foot), Robbie Findley (knee), Sebastian Velasquez (hamstring) and Devon Sandoval (foot) — the injury bugs swarmed in Northern California.
Goalkeeper Nick Rimando suffered a lower-back injury after making a fingertip save in the 22nd minute of play. While he gutted it out, the spasms that overtook his back were something he’s never dealt with. He said afterward he expects to undergo tests and therapy to see what his status is going forward.
"It was so strange," Rimando said. "I went to hit it, quick reaction and my whole backside kind of spasmed up and got numb and stayed numb for another four or five minutes."
Later in the second half, center back Aaron Maund suffered a hamstring injury, according to RSL coach Jeff Cassar, and was replaced by Carlos Salcedo. Late in stoppage time, rookie Jordan Allen suffered an ankle injury that left the youngster hobbling in the final minutes of the match.
"I think we had a couple of things that you don’t plan for," said RSL captain Kyle Beckerman. "One of our subs got injured right away, and a center back you don’t ever plan really getting [injured], so we had some tough things go against us."
Suddenly, despite two results against the L.A. Galaxy and San Jose in the infancy of this season, RSL is battling more than just opponents. As many as eight RSL players could end up on the MLS injury report as it preps for the 2014 home opener against the Galaxy on Saturday afternoon at Rio Tinto Stadium. And glancing into the future, the next four games following the match against L.A. seem like tough sledding.
RSL welcomes star-studded Toronto FC to Rio Tinto in week four before heading to Sporting Park to face defending MLS Cup champion Sporting Kansas City. The next week, RSL travels to Philadelphia, and a week later faces rival Portland in Sandy.
"The key to a great season is health, and we always want to put our best players on the field and that’s who’s healthiest," Rimando said. "Right now, we’ve got some knocks."
Cassar said last week that Schuler’s return was close, as was the availability of Velasquez, but RSL’s depth will be tested presumably much earlier than expected.
"We were down four or five significant guys and we were still in a great position to win the game and we feel confident with any 11 we put out there," Wingert said. "We’re a very deep team."
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