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What Andrew Brody’s broken toe means for RSL

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Brody’s been one of the biggest surprises of the season, but a broken toe has derailed that progress.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Real Salt Lake Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

It is extremely weird for me to be writing this headline, but here we are in the year 2021, and this is the headline that I’m not only writing, but one that I think I should be writing.

See, somehow, Andrew Brody ended up in our starting eleven at Real Salt Lake. I don’t mean that as a slight to the player — rather, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would have predicted his rise to prominence at this club, and, indeed, in MLS.

See, the year was 2012. Or 2013, but that seems less likely. I was sitting with Jake Simons (of RSL Soapbox fame, then RSL Show fame) (have I told you this one before?) watching an MLS Reserves match at America First Field. (That’s the name of the bank that sponsored our training field. I guess they still sponsor it, even though that’s not the club’s primary training ground.) Anyway, reserve games there were a blast, and this one was probably no exception, even if I don’t remember which game in particular it was.

(Don’t believe they were a blast? Here’s a ridiculous highlight reel you can watch from one 5-5 draw. 5-5! Wild.)

Anyway, this game, which I am now inclined to believe was in 2013, had me there talking to Jake when Andrew Brody, eight years younger than he is now, was a svelte 18-year-old winger. He came on in the 78th minute (probably, given historical records) and, if memory serves, played pretty well. (It should be noted that I was also eight years younger, and it appears that eight years is a long time for an adult to remember things. Hmm.) But he was a winger — an out-and-out winger. No wing back, no full back — just an attacking player, and a pretty good one at the academy level. I remember distinctly Jake and I talking about Brody and his MLS prospects. We essentially dismissed them at Real Salt Lake, because Brody was a winger, and of course, Jason Kreis never played with wingers. (I don’t know that he ever successfully played with wingers, if we look at his post-RSL record, actually.) It had nothing to do with his stature, his quality — any of that. He was just not the player I thought we’d sign.

Anyway, fast forward to today. News emerged, both through a report from a club source to Kyle Sipple, fellow Off the Crossbarian, and through Alex Vejar of the Salt Lake Tribune, that Andrew Brody had successfully undergone surgery to fix a broken toe.

Those eight years ago, I didn’t picture this being a major concern — a blow, and nothing more. But what’s more important here (and maybe what I should have led with, but honestly, this is what you get with me, isn’t it?) is that I didn’t expect this to be a major concern in, like, March. Or even April.

See, Andrew Brody has been a surprise to most of us, and in some ways, what his injury means for RSL is pretty clear-cut.

We’re back to April, at the start of the season. I mean, not really — not entirely. We have a couple more players added, and we’ve learned a lot. But essentially, we’re no worse off than we thought we’d be then, and that’s weird to think. Despite that feeling, though, there are some really interesting implications to work through.

Who replaces Brody in the lineup? I actually think this one is hard to answer.

First up is the obvious choice: Donny Toia, who was widely expected to be our starting left back at the start of the season. I imagine he slots right back into that role, and if what we saw against Vancouver Whitecaps is any indication, he’ll be playing his normal game. He’s not a brilliant attacking full back, and he’s not a perfect one-on-one defender, but he offers plenty in defense and some in attack. (He’s even been a key piece in Albert Rusnak’s set piece resurgence, strangely enough.) I think this is the choice I’d make, but it’s certainly not the only one.

Second: Justen Glad. This one depends on Toni Datkovic being ready to play basically immediately, and him forming a good relationship with Marcelo Silva. If they are a good match, Glad could slot in at left back, a position he’s played with the U.S. U-23 side. Glad is not a consummate attacking player, but him in that spot could allow Aaron Herrera carte blanche to get forward again. It’s an interesting idea that would rather unbalance the way we play, but maybe that’s not a bad thing.

Third, Ashtone Morgan remains an option. I suspect he’ll be called upon a bit more this season, but honestly, I have no clue. I’m a little puzzled. He looked so good in preseason. (I wonder if Andrew Brody hadn’t emerged as a contender, Morgan might be playing more. Who knows.)

What do you think? Who would you replace Brody with in the lineup? Should we use this as an opportunity to try something different? And why did I write nearly 900 words on Andrew Brody just to talk about a toe injury and surgery?