CARSON, Calif. - The status of Real Salt Lake center backs Nat Borchers and Jàmison Olave is perhaps the biggest question mark for either side heading into Sunday’s Western Conference Championship (9 pm ET; ESPN, ESPN Deportes, TSN 2, live chat on MLSsoccer.com). And while everyone is dying to know whether one or both players will be physically ready to get the start, coach Jason Kreis insists that’s a question that won’t be answered until the day of game.
“They’ll be undecided until game time tomorrow,” said Kreis in a sober fashion after his squad went through a closed training session on Saturday at the Home Depot Center.
Both Borchers and Olave participated in the training session, and as has been mentioned over the last couple of days, Borchers appears to be the closer of the two to a return to action. But both players came off the practice pitch with well positioned ice packs on their quadriceps, which were injured during the first leg against Seattle.
“They looked okay,” said Kreis of the pair. “Both of them were able to do quite a bit, but having said, that I don’t think either one of them tested themselves to the capacity that they’ll need to test themselves to be ready for tomorrow. That will happen as soon as they get [to the Home Depot Center] an hour, hour and a half before kickoff.”
Borchers gave mixed messages about his progress, reiterating that it will come down to a game time decision.
“Today was good,” said Borchers. “I didn’t do a whole lot on it though. It definitely was positive being out there with the guys. It’s really going to come down to whether I can make those quick movements to cover ground to close things down, to track runners, and be a good defender.”
The prospect of missing both central defenders for the second consecutive playoff game is a daunting one.
“It’s difficult,” said Kreis. “They are both very good players for us.”
For the Galaxy’s part, they know the value that Borchers and Olave bring to RSL – but they also kept an eye on Chris Schuler and Chris Wingert, the replacement duo Kreis used for the second leg of the West semis against Seattle.
“Those two are arguably the best center back pairing in the league. If one of them is out, it hurts them. If both of them are out, it certainly hurts them,” said LA attacker Landon Donovan. “But I also watched their game versus Seattle Wednesday night, and I thought Wingert and Schuler did a great job. They’re experienced. Their midfield does a good job of getting around the ball, which relieves some of the pressure on their backline. And they have a great goalkeeper, too. So even if one or two of those aren’t on the field, it’s still going to be a big challenge.”