SANDY, Utah – It may have been held together by duct tape and band aids, but the Real Salt Lake defense got the job done Tuesday night, posting a shutout in the team's 2-0 CONCACAF Champions League win over Panamanian champions Tauro FC.
First-choice center backs Jamison Olave, out with a strained hamstring, and Nat Borchers, suspended because of his red card in the team's CCL opener, were absent from the pitch. And with defender Chris Schuler still not cleared to play as he works his way back from a stress response in his foot, RSL coach Jason Kreis had no choice but to mix things up in the back.
Over the past two months, Kwame Watson-Siriboe has earned the trust and respect of his coach and teammates, and he did nothing to break any of that with his solid play against Tauro.
And Chris Wingert, a stalwart at outside back for RSL, slid inside, allowing Kenny Mansally to play at Wingert's normal left back position with Tony Beltran staying at his usual right back position. Together, they looked nonplussed in keeping a vital clean sheet.
"They worked hard, really hard. I thought they were pretty sharp for the most part," said Kreis. "… Those guys played pretty composed, played pretty hard and looked pretty organized. And they kept the shutout, which we needed."
RSL limited the visitors to only three shots on the evening, but it wasn't just the back four that played a part.
"I thought we were very good," said goalkeeper Nick Rimando. "I think we all knew what Panama was going to try to do when they came here – sit back, fall down and you know, their trainer probably ran more than their players.
"All in all I thought defensively, when we lost the ball, our forwards were getting back at them right away. They were winning the ball back quickly and it really gave us momentum and didn't give them much of an attack."
If things weren't bad enough finding able bodies at the back, Mansally suffered a sprained MCL and had to be substituted at the 66th minute. With few defensive options, Kreis elected to bring in another midfielder, Jonny Steele, and move Will Johnson to the back
"It's fun. I like playing back there," said the midfielder-turned-defender. "It's usually when we're losing so it's not the best feeling, but it was nice to go back there and help out. Obviously, we have a lot of injuries and things going on in the back, so my versatility helps us a little bit there.
"I think the other three, four guys, Kenny, Wing, Kwame and Tony were fantastic and they deserve most of the credit."