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Match Preview: RSL defense fairly strong despite massive absences

George Frey

Real Salt Lake takes on FC Dallas with a depleted squad, giving them a tough shot in a state in which they've never won. Missing upward of 10 players, Jason Kreis — still the all-time leading scorer for Dallas, though they were then the Dallas Burn — will be forced to alter his tactical approach for a normally difficult match. He will be slightly boosted by the hopefully imminent return of Nat Borchers to the squad, giving the defense a stronger look.

Borchers is likely to partner Kwame Watson-Siriboe in the center of defense, while Chris Schuler will almost certainly shift out to the left in the absence of both Chris Wingert (to continued injury) and Abdoulie Mansally (to international duty.) Lovel Palmer will likely be shifted to the right side of defense, while Josh Saunders is likely to play in goal for the internationally departed Nick Rimando.

The midfield will take on a newer look than the defense, though: The absences pile up, with Kyle Beckerman out on international duty, Javier Morales injured, Sebastian Velasquez apparently ill, David Viana out through injury, and Khari Stephenson doubtful through injury, Ned Grabavoy and Luis Gil will be the only substantially experienced players in the midfield.

A spot, then, opens up for a player like Cole Grossman, John Stertzer or perhaps Enzo Martinez — the competition for places is scintillating stuff, although the method by which it's come about is a bit tough to swallow.

The forward situation is a bit more clear, with Devon Sandoval likely to step in for Alvaro Saborio after some very strong reserve performances; he'll probably partner Robbie Findley, who is still finding his feet after returning to MLS this season. Joao Plata and Olmes Garcia are the probable options off the bench, and the former has been effective in early days for Real Salt Lake. Garcia has only seen reserve time to this point, but his exciting performance may see him off the bench should things go awry tonight.

How exactly Jason Kreis manages the injury situation will be interesting to see, but expecting him to put out a squad that'll really, truly push for a win seems a bit harder to imagine. But some defensive awareness coupled with an eye for a blazing counterattack might be just what the side needs. Whether Kreis employs such a "plan B" or not will speak loudly about the faith he shows in his squad depth.