Sandy • The defensive depth chart isn't exactly robust at the moment.
A few hours before Real Salt Lake boarded its flight to the Windy City for its first road match of the year against the Chicago Fire, coach Jeff Cassar said both Justen Glad (knee) and Chris Schuler (foot) will not be making the trip. Glad suffered a right leg injury in Sunday's CONCACAF U-20 Championship against Honduras in Costa Rica that forced him off the field in the second half.
Cassar said the RSL medical staff are currently exploring other opinions on Glad's right knee.
"It's some issues with the knee," Cassar said. "There could be some ligament stuff, but the good thing is that it's not fractured, we believe. But there could be some ligament issues."
The 20-year-old center back started every match for the eventual World Cup qualifying U.S. U-20s in Costa Rica. The 6-foot-tall defender started 27 matches for RSL a year ago and had two goals and four assists in 2016. RSL should have a more definitive answer on Glad's prognosis next Tuesday, Cassar said.
Schuler missed the last two training sessions of the week as the 29-year-old center back is once again dealing with foot soreness, an issue that has hampered him over the years. The 6-foot-4 defender started in RSL's 2017 season-opening 0-0 draw against Toronto FC last weekend.
"He's had issues with this before and this isn't the time to push it," Cassar said. "Our doctors are optimistic that it's going to be fine, Chris is optimistic, but it's not happening this weekend."
Aaron Maund (hamstring) is about 80 percent at the moment, Cassar said, and should be back in full training next Tuesday. So down three center backs in just the second week of the season, where does RSL go? Offseason signing David Horst is a lock at this point. It's who starts alongside Horst at Toyota Park that becomes the more pressing question.
Left back Demar Phillips (hamstring) is working his way back, which could lend Cassar and the RSL coaching staff to starting Chris Wingert on the left side once again. That scenario would put the odds on rookie Justin Schmidt being thrown into the mix against the Fire. Should Phillips be ready to go, Wingert is also a candidate to start centrally next to Horst.
The coaching staff has spoken glowingly about Schmidt, the 23-year-old center back out of the University of Washington who RSL chose in the second round of the 2017 MLS SuperDraft. Asked what might give Schmidt the inside track on making a surprise MLS debut Saturday on the road, Cassar said:
"I think his personality," he said. "He's very mature and he's had a really good preseason. He's had some hiccups, but the great thing about him very similar to Justen Glad when he was coming into our team is they seem to, if they make a mistake, they get over it pretty quick. And they learn from it pretty quickly. If Justin's number's called, we'll try to give him clear objectives for the game, but there's a lot of confidence in him. The kid's done very good this preseason."