It's official. Chris Schuler underwent successful surgery on his left foot and now begins the process of recovery, which is expected to be 4-6 months.
Wait, haven't I heard this story before? How is a surgery "successful" if the last "successful" surgery only led to him re-injuring his foot again later?
The most recent injury that's kept Chris out of the starting 11 was a torn meniscus. That's his knee for non-biology majors like me. Also, it was on his right side, and his foot issues have been his left. The most recent surgery was confirmed to be a result of an "old injury" early last month in an update posted by Chris Kamrani in the Salt Lake Tribune (in which the dreaded phrase "injury prone" was applied to Schuler). As far as I know, there wasn't any information about how he suffered that injury, just that it had resurfaced.
I'm reminded of this interview in Paste from the beginning of the season where Chris responds to a question about which of his various injuries over the years has been the most difficult to deal with:
To be honest, most of my injuries have stemmed from something I did in college, so that’s like the origin of the problem. I broke my big toe, I don’t know, in 2007 maybe, playing on turf. It just restricts the range of motion in my foot, so I’ve had some residual stress fractures due to the lack of range of motion—forces are absorbed in a different way than they typically would be in a typical foot. I’d have to be honest and say that one. It wasn’t anything crazy, it wasn’t a crazy amount of pain but that one had some effects down the road.
That's the first and last thing I've seen about the ongoing foot issues Schuler has dealt with over the last several years. What's troubling is that, since 2012, this same foot injury will have kept him off the pitch for more than a full calendar year if you include recovery time from this current surgery.
And that means we need to revisit the centerback question. Not to say that Aaron Maund is bad. Not to say that Elias Vasquez can't cut it. Not to say that Phanuel Kavita or Justen Glad haven't shown well when we've seen them on the pitch. But we signed Olave with the assumption that he would pair with Chris Schuler as part of a starting back four -- a back four we have barely seen all season. Olave's great, I'm glad we have him, but he can't do all the work himself. And, as we've seen with the US Men's National Team, you can't have a rotating cast of centerbacks and expect a consistent defensive performance. Looking back at the games RSL has lost this season, almost all of them (if not all) can be broken down to poor defensive mistakes leading to goals that changed the outcome of the game.
I can't help but wonder if RSL made the right decision to sign Jamison Olave. He's already missed a dozen games this season. I hate the term "injury prone" because I feel like it ignores context, but that's a phrase that's been applied to Jamison as well. Is it safe to build a back four around two players who both carry that albatross?
Real Salt Lake isn't completely out of it this season yet. But it's not far off. For RSL to make any kind of run whatsoever -- be it in MLS play or CONCACAF Champions League -- it needs to start from the back. We need to see strong defensive performances. Do we have the centerbacks to do it? After Maund's fatal misstep against Castillo last week, I don't know.
We've seen glimpses of the attacking side shining in recent games, especially since signing Luis Silva. But all the attacking chances in the world can't make up for a sudden counterattack with one defender left between the ball and the goalkeeper. Which is what we saw in Frisco. Plays like this will be a surefire way to cement us at the bottom of the table no matter how much lipstick we try to put on this pig.