2013 was supposed to be a big year for Chris Schuler.
Jamison Olave had been traded away in the off season, and Schuler was expected to make the step up to a full-time starter to fill that hole. Entering his fourth season, it was finally time for Schuler to shine. But things didn't go quite as planned.
Schuler played the first 12 games of the season and did a great job on the back line. RSL only gave up 13 goals in those first 12 matches. They had a very solid defense overall, thanks in part to Schuler. That is when the injury bug struck him again.
After the match on May 11 against Montreal, he was once again sidelined with a foot injury. The year that was supposed to hold so much promise for Schuler was now in jeopardy. He ended up sitting out the next 18 matches of the season waiting for his foot to heal.
Finally, on Sept. 28, Schuler returned to the starting lineup and quickly reminded RSL faithful of what he was capable of. At this point in the season the RSL defense was struggling. In the 10 games before Schuler's return, RSL had conceded a total of 21 goals. In the final four regular season matches that he played in after his return, the team only gave up 2 goals. His dominance in the air really helped the RSL defense on set pieces, an area that the team had been struggling with prior to Schuler's return.
Schuler's solid defensive play continued into the postseason. But, to go along with that, he stepped up his play on the offensive side of the ball as well. He scored 2 huge goals to help propel RSL to the MLS Cup Final. Those 2 goals are impressive when you think that during the regular season, RSL defenders only accounted for 1 total goal.
Schuler played in nine matches after his return between regular season play and the playoffs. RSL had a record of 5-1-3 in those matches and only gave up 6 goals during that time.
In regular season play, Schuler played 1140 minutes. During that time, RSL gave up 15 goals, or a goal every 96 minutes. This was the best defensive rating on the team. By comparison, when Schuler did not play, RSL gave up a goal every 62 minutes.
Schuler enters the 2014 season with even greater expectations than the previous year. Everyone is hoping that his foot injuries are behind him after having off season surgery. If that is the case, he is poised to a have a huge season. If his great form continues on from the playoffs, don't be surprised if Schuler receives a post World Cup call to the U.S. Men's National Team.
Editor's note: This is part of a series of player profiles recapping the 2013 season and previewing the 2014 season. Player ratings were compiled via a vote by RSL Soapbox writers. Statistics are via mlssoccer.com.