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Real Salt Lake: Forward depth is thin ahead of Toronto FC
MLS » Plata, Sandoval, Findley will all be missing up front on Saturday
First Published Mar 25 2014 04:24 pm • Last Updated Mar 25 2014 11:30 pm

Sandy • All is not quiet on the Real Salt Lake injury front. Already beat up just two weeks into the season, Joao Plata’s untimely hamstring strain last Saturday put a damper on the 2014 home opener at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Plata joins a fluctuating list of injured important players that has already featured Chris Schuler and Javier Morales to Devon Sandoval and Sebastian Velasquez.

At a glance

RSL vs. Toronto

Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

TV: Ch. 4

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While Schuler made his 2014 debut Saturday after off-season ankle surgery and Morales battled back from an injury that kept him out of the Week 2 matchup at San Jose, RSL’s depth continues to be tested, especially up top.

Of a possible five strikers, RSL is down to two, Alvaro Saborio and Olmes Garcia with Plata (hamstring), Sandoval (foot) and Robbie Findley (knee surgery) out. But as RSL coach Jeff Cassar explained after Tuesday’s training session in Sandy, there are options. Cassar mentioned rookie Jordan Allen, who trained Tuesday after suffering an ankle sprain against San Jose on March 15, reserve Benji Lopez and even threw out the possibility of Luis Gil playing up top in a pinch.

"We have options," Cassar said. "I’m not sweating it at all."

After Plata tweeted that he’d miss three weeks with his left hamstring strain Monday, Cassar said the club isn’t putting a timetable on the amount of time of Plata’s absence.

"It’s getting better each day," Cassar said. "It should be faster than [three weeks], but it all depends on how he does in his rehab."

Velasquez, who suffered a hamstring injury in training before the season started is working on his rehab and will be introduced to field training soon, Cassar said. Sandoval, whose broken foot hampered his offseason, is expected to start participating in full training sessions possibly this week. Defender Aaron Maund, another RSL player hamstrung by a hamstring issue, isn’t expected to be available this weekend against Toronto FC, but Cassar said he’s improving.

Schuler’s return to the starting lineup Saturday is an important start in the club awaiting its much-hoped return to full strength over the coming weeks.

"I was able to get through 90 and I felt pretty fit," Schuler said, "so it’s a positive start."

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The other addition

Michael Bradley, Jermain Defoe and Gilberto have received the loads of attention as the trio of Designated Players that were signed by Toronto FC this off-season. But the club that rolls into Rio Tinto Stadium Saturday added a piece who is an odds-on player to start on one of the world’s top national teams in this summer’s FIFA World Cup. Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar signed a season-long loan deal with TFC on Feb. 7, giving it a foundation in the back.

"Te team’s got a lot of confidence when they look back there," Cassar said. "It’s very similar to our team when our players look back and see Nick Rimando, the confidence level goes up a little bit. Similar to Nicky, he’s very good with his feet as well."

The 34-year-old Cesar has played professionally in Brazil, Italy and England before moving to MLS. He’s been part of the Brazilian national team picture since 2003 and was in goal when Brazil won the FIFA Confederations Cup trophy last summer in a 3-0 win over defending World Cup champions Spain.

"Obviously, he’s a great goalkeeper," Rimando said Tuesday, "I think he came over here to get playing time and be ready for the World Cup … him coming to Toronto is definitely going to help their goalkeeping there."

In Toronto’s back-to-back wins to start the 2014 season, Cesar and the TFC defense has conceded just one goal — scored by Seattle star Clint Dempsey in Toronto’s 2-1 season opener on March 15.

Suspension for Sabo?

Following Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Rio Tinto Stadium, L.A. Galaxy players didn’t mince words to publicly voice displeasure with the foul Alvaro Saborio committed on A.J. DeLaGarza. The RSL forward clipped the L.A. defender in the 62nd minute and was assessed a yellow card by official Ismail Elfath.

"I’m trying to figure out how it’s not a red card," said L.A. star Landon Donovan. "You see his leg, you see the intent, and how nasty that was. I’d be very surprised if there isn’t further action taken. It’s OK to be tough and physical, but you don’t want to be nasty and that was a pretty nasty one."

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