Schuler's Back 0826

The last time Chris Schuler took the field for Real Salt Lake, he keyed a shutout of the LA Galaxy in the quarterfinal round of the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.  On Friday, 410 days since that last appearance in the Claret-and-Cobalt, Schuler subbed on in the final seconds of RSL’s 2-1, Rocky Mountain Cup-clinching win over the Colorado Rapids and after the match he couldn’t keep from flashing his megawatt smile in the locker room.

Behind that smile was 410 days laboring to get back on the field that he has called home since being drafted 39th overall in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft.  Putting the frustrations of a 2015 season that saw him play just five league matches because of a series of injuries after a stellar season in 2014 that had some talking about him as a contender for call-ups to the U.S. National Team.  And appreciating the faith put in him by the technical staff with Real Salt Lake and Real Monarchs.

“I was thankful to get the appearance.  It’s been a long time.  I was thankful to contribute towards a positive result.  It’s a big game for everybody.  The Rocky Mountain Cup means a lot,” Schuler said.  “It felt good.”

He may have only seen roughly 43 seconds of action from stepping onto the field until the final whistle, but it wasn’t without impact.  While Colorado tried to find an equalizer, the aerial presence of Schuler proved vital as he won a header on the last ball played into the box and that clearance was followed shortly by the whistle from the referee to end the match at 2-1.

That play underscores what he can bring on the field as a presence at center back and the reaction in the locker room was further emphasis on his importance off the field as well.

“He’s such a huge part of the locker room and part of our team and part of the fabric of this team,” RSL captain Kyle Beckerman said.  “I’m sure it’s so frustrating, but Schuler just kept his head down and he worked his tail off, and it’s just a reward for his hard work to get back out there and now he can just keep moving forward and get more playing time.  He’s going to be a big help for us going forward.”

Schuler had been playing in the USL with the Monarchs, with whom he signed early this season after being unemployed, in his words, after the conclusion of the 2015 season.  After knee and ankle injuries in 2015, he was able to ease his way back into form and fitness by playing nine matches with the Monarchs, including going a full 90 minutes in six matches.

Periodically, he trained with the MLS side, getting a healthy dose of the speed of play in MLS as he worked his way back.  Now with the first team full time, he figures to be an important contributor for RSL as it closes out the regular season with seven matches left to play.

“He’s going to be an important player for us and he knows that,” Cassar said.  “He’s worked extremely hard to get back to have that opportunity and I couldn’t be happier for him.”