SANDY, Utah — No one has played more minutes for Real Salt Lake this season than defender Nat Borchers. He has started 27 of 28 regular-season games and played 2,406 minutes, 159 more than anyone and hundreds more than most.
But after picking up a red card in Seattle, Borchers will not be in the lineup on Friday when RSL host Colorado.
His absence will be “huge,” according to RSL coach Jeff Cassar, and Borcher's fellow defender, Tony Beltran, agreed.
“It'll be weird checking my left shoulder and not seeing that beard,” Beltran told reporters. “It's a privilege to play next to him. He's such an intelligent defender. [He] makes my job so much easier. He really kind of orchestrates everything in the back [and] puts everybody in position.”
The obvious choice to step in for the 33-year-old Borchers is 20-year-old Carlos Salcedo, who has only made two league starts this year and totaled just 260 regular-season minutes. Not surprisingly, Cassar is not tipping his hand before Friday.
“We'll see. I mean, he's definitely in consideration — both him and Aaron [Maund],” Cassar said. “But Carlos has been playing well when he's gotten in there and is looking sharp. He's coming off a good couple weeks with the U-21 Mexican [national] team.”
Salcedo was called up in April, July and again in September to the Mexican squad, the same group that will eventually try to qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
“I'm starting almost every single game with the national team, so that's good for me,” he said. “I'm feeling ready to step up now that Borchers got a red card. I think that's a great chance for me to show the coach that I'm prepared.”
Cassar had enough confidence in Salcedo to sub him in shortly after Borchers picked up the red card in Seattle, and his teammates credit his attitude despite limited playing time this season.
“Carlos has stepped in numerous times this year,” Beltran said. “Everybody has seen that he's a very capable young man. It's tough as a young player sometimes, because we have a lot of good, veteran players. It's tough to break through and get playing time. But credit to him: He's always had a good head on his shoulders and worked hard. He'll do just fine.”
The ever-optimistic Cassar sees Borchers' unplanned break as a good thing.
“Sometimes things are small blessings,” he said. “I mean, obviously, Nat has logged a ton of minutes this year, and listen, I've got to give him a break at some point, anyways. I didn't tell him to get a red card, but it's good for him. He got an extra day of rest this week. He's going to get an extra day of rest this weekend. So sometimes there's small blessings in disguise.”