Returning defenders bolster RSL options, hopes against Portland

USA TODAY Sports

For the first time it what seems a month's time — perhaps because it really has been a month's time — Real Salt Lake could roll out something approaching a first-choice defensive group. With Portland Timbers one of MLS's more potent attacking sides, it's not a moment too late.

Tony Beltran will undoubtedly see his first minutes since returning from the Gold Cup, having missed the Colorado Rapids match through a pre-international-duty suspension. His return to the side injects not only quality one-on-one defending but also a valuable attacking bent.

Chris Wingert, too, should return to the side, with his suspension both completed and irrelevant in US Open Cup consideration. His defensive play will be vital with Portland Timbers willing to attack from wider positions without necessarily crossing the ball in ad nauseam.

Nat Borchers remains with the side, but the only big question comes in the form of his partner. Young center back Carlos Salcedo could return to the side after recovering from an emergency gall bladder surgery. Aaron Maund, too, could be in consideration, but with Brandon McDonald taking the spot next to Borchers last week, the possibilities may be somewhat diminished. McDonald is ineligible for the Open Cup, as he is cup-tied, having played in the competition with DC United before being traded. Salcedo formed a fine partnership with Borchers prior to his surgery, and given the profligate defending marked by the matches in which he was absent, it's hard to see him left out if he's available.

Behind the four, Nick Rimando seems the natural option: He, like Beltran and captain Kyle Beckerman, has only recently returned from international duty. While Josh Saunders played the other US Open Cup matches, his injury status renders him unavailable; it would seem Kreis is unlikely to pick young goalkeeper Jeff Attinella for this one with Rimando available.

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