SANDY, Utah — He's Real Salt Lake's automatic go-to guy when the Jámison Olave-Nat Borchers center back pairing is unavailable.
Chris Schuler, the club's 2010 third-round SuperDraft pick, is expected to get another chance to start on Saturday night when RSL face Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center (10:30 pm ET, streamed LIVE online).
For the 11th time this season, Olave will be out of the lineup, this time because of a yellow-card accumulation suspension. But with Schuler back healthy after missing over three months of the season with the beginnings of a stress fracture in his foot, that isn't something that concerns the team all that much.
"He's suspended?" Borchers said after being told of Olave's situation. "I didn't even know that. We've been trying to get a consistent back four the whole season, and we haven't been able to do it. Hopefully, we'll be able to get it.
It is never good to have a player the caliber of Olave out, but head coach Jason Kreis was not too upset about it."If you throw in a new guy here and there it is just fine. I think Schuler can step up and handle that spot just fine."
"I was seriously considering playing him Saturday and giving one of the other two a rest," Kreis said in reference to Borchers and Olave. "It forces my hand, and I'm actually kind of glad or it because I think Schuler is very much ready and champing at the bit and deserves the chance."
Physically, Schuler has already shown that he is ready.
"He played left back against Houston at Houston in that humidity and played 90 minutes, so he definitely showed that he is fit enough to contribute right now," said Kreis of RSL's 1-0 loss to the Dynamo on Sept. 6.
With only four games remaining and RSL fighting with Seattle and LA to avoid the one-game playoff involving the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds in the Western Conference, every point will be crucial. A good result is paramount for the club, but Schuler isn't worried about feeling the pressure.
"It always is fun to play in big games," Schuler said. "I always approach every game the same way. They're all big games."
Michael Black covers Real Salt Lake for MLSsoccer.com.