The last few years have been an absolute rollercoaster for RSL defender Chris Schuler. An injury-riddled professional career has taken him from a regular starter in the center-back position all the way to an unsigned player, and seemingly everywhere in between.
Unofficially dubbed the unluckiest player in MLS, his latest bout with injury came in 2015, where he only played a total of five games and missed the rest of the season with a couple of injuries — the final blow coming when it was announced he would be out 4-6 months after undergoing surgery on his left foot.
At the end of the 2015 season, RSL declined his option and he was officially without a team.
Schuler had made it clear that he wished to stay in Salt Lake City and had high hopes of working his way back into the system, which turned out to be exactly what happened as he signed with the Real Monarchs in March of this year.
After making nine appearances with the USL side — including six games where he played the full 90 — Schuler finally found his way back to the Real Salt Lake first team, when the club announced they had signed him to a full contract on August 11.
He made his first RSL appearance in over a year on August 26 in the 2-1 win at home against Colorado, although he was only subbed on with a minute left to play. Schuler went on to make three starts to finish out the year, notching three shots on goal and showing some solid and promising play — a bright spot in a rather dismal end to the 2016 campaign.
So where does that leave him for the future?
We know that the club picked up his option for 2017, giving him a chance to prove that he can stay healthy add some real value to the team going forward. Without a doubt, Schuler is one of the best central defenders in MLS when he stays match fit and can play at the top of his game.
As far as expectations for next season — we should expect to see him pull a ton of minutes in 2017 as long as he can finally get over the injury bug and get back to playing quality soccer. With a healthy Aaron Maund and Justen Glad in the mix, it should also be fun to see the three players rotate in-and-out and see how the pairings work out over the course of a season.
Being only 29, he’s got plenty of good years left and can maybe even make that run at the US Men’s National Team that has been talked about for so long. I feel like the sky is the limit for Schuler, and we all know what he’s capable of — we can only hope that we’ll be able to see him stay on top of his game for a long time to come.