SANDY, Utah -- Real Salt Lake got what they were hoping for and more in Saturday night’s 3-0 win over the Seattle Sounders in the first leg of the conference semifinals. But it was a result that came at a high price, as both starting central defenders limped off with injuries.
Jamison Olave went down in the first half with a strained right quadriceps minutes after an acrobatic clearance. His partner Nat Borchers came off on the other side of halftime with a knee injury.
Both are scheduled to be examined on Sunday morning. Borchers will have an MRI.
“I’m not really sure when it happened,” Borchers said of his injury. “I went to clear a ball in the first half and felt my knee hyperextend. And then in the second half, I just stopped on it and felt a sharp pain where the quad meets the top of the knee.”
Borchers said that the trainer is optimistic, but knows that’s no guarantee. It leaves RSL scrambling, and once again staring at a must-win game fielding something less than their best XI.
“I looked at Will [Johnson] when Olave went off and said ‘Well, you know, it was nice while it lasted,’” said RSL fullback Chris Wingert, who ended up finishing the game in central defense alongside Chris Schuler. “They were throwing a lot of guys forward and it’s difficult, but at that point it’s do your best to survive the last couple of minutes and make sure that we get out of there with the zero.”
They got the zero, but as head coach Jason Kreis said – and his players reiterated – it’s only halftime of the series with Seattle. The return leg is still on the docket for Wednesday at CenturyLink Field, a task made all the more daunting by the potential of being without one or both of their veteran central defenders.
“It’s something you just have to stay focused for,” Schuler said of his substitute appearance and the potential for a larger role in the second leg. “You stay focused and just have to be ready to come in whenever the coach needs you.”
While Schuler acquitted himself well and was one of the big reasons the Sounders finished without a single shot on frame, the Claret-and-Cobalt have struggled this season when playing without their top central defensive pairing. When Borchers and Olave both start, RSL are 9-4-8; when one or both are missing, they’re 6-7-0.
Nonetheless, they’ll be heading to Seattle with a big advantage and – according to ‘keeper Nick Rimando – the main goal of the night accomplished.
“We were organized, we kept the zero, and that was the objective,” Rimando said of the team’s performance. “We’re just gonna see how deep we are. Hopefully it’s not too bad – this is one of those times where you’d like to have a little more time in between games – but, again, if the worst happens and those guys can’t go, we have guys who can do the job.”