Chris Wingert celebrates Real Salt Lake's third goal in their 2012 season opener against the LA Galaxy. (Photo Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE)
When Jamison Olave exited the match against the Galaxy and Chris Wingert switched positions to compensate, even the most optimistic fans had to be a little worried that one of our top players was leaving the pitch.
Wingert recognizes the problems that come with Olave's absence, but he's confident that he'll be able to fill the center back role tonight when Real Salt Lake takes on the San Jose Earthquakes in a vital top-of-the-table clash.
"It's never ideal to lose guys of that caliber," Wingert said after Friday's training session. "When you have a long season like we do, every team's going to go through some injuries, suspensions and things like that."
Though Wingert is known for his excellent flank play at left back for Real Salt Lake, he's no stranger to playing through the center of the park.
"For the most part, I feel comfortable there," he said. "I've played more games in my life at center back than I have at outside back."
Though he prefers him as a full back option, RSL coach Jason Kreis is confident that Wingert will do well tomorrow night.
"I believe that Chris Wingert can be a good center back," Kreis said. "He's such a cerebral player. I believe that he'll do a good job tomorrow night."
But while it's an easy decision for Kreis to make, given the absence of central backup Chris Schuler to a foot injury, it's the questions that cascade down in the absence of Wingert that could be more meaningful for the side as they take on the Quakes.
"Whether it's going to be somebody playing out of position or somebody that's a nature there, we hope that they'll be able to step forward and do a job," Kreis said. "This is a very dangerous team to do that job against."
The gap on the left opens up some options for Kreis to explore. One of those options is Kenny Mansally, a Gambian full back, winger and forward, who plied his trade most recently with New England Revolution. Despite only signing this week, Mansally is in contention, Kreis said.
"We brought him here as an outside back ... he's a versatile player," he said. "Maybe in a pinch we can consider him to play forward ... but for us, we're mainly focused on him at outside back. We're considering throwing him right into the mix tomorrow night."
It's not the first time Kreis has been forced to make difficult decisions in match day lineups through injury and suspension.
"We went through a spell like this where it seemed like it was one injury after another, having to play players out of position," he said. "The fact is, we believe. We believe our guys can do it, we believe they're talented enough, mature enough, experienced enough that they can be asked to play different positions and we can still be successful."