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Sandy • Real Salt Lake has found itself a center back. Unlike the previously-targeted defenders from around the world, this center back is much more recognizable than any of the number of potential signings RSL has discussed as of late.

Chris Schuler, out-of-contract at RSL since the conclusion of last season, has signed a contract with the franchise's USL side Real Monarchs. The move to keep Schuler in Utah is an attempt by the front office to give the talented, but oft-injured center back an opportunity to prove he can stay healthy and vie for a first-team roster spot later this season.

The 28-year-old was drafted by RSL in 2010, spending the last six seasons with the franchise, but has battled a variety of injures during his career.

Just weeks after returning from meniscus surgery that kept him out for nearly four months last July, Schuler suffered a fractured navicular bone in his left foot that required surgery. He's currently near the tail-end of his recovery, which was initially set as a 4-to-6-month process.

"The intention organizationally — there's no secret — is to get him healthy and get him back into the first team," RSL general manager Craig Waibel told the Tribune. "From a financial standpoint. going back to the salary cap, it's too much of a financial liability to help us keep improving the team in the meantime while we try and get him healthy."

Schuler's deal with RSL expired following a 2015 season in which he played in just five regular-season matches. One of 42 players originally available for selection in the MLS Re-Entry Draft, Schuler went unclaimed in the first round before pulling himself out of the second round a few days later.

Due to the extensive nature of injury history — Schuler has started just 72 games since 2010 — the ongoing conversation between Waibel and Schuler was to find a common ground for RSL keep the imposing 6-foot-4 defender around to showcase post-foot fracture.

"He's not one of those out-of-touch athletes," Waibel said. "He's very aware of his situation, he's very aware of his body, he's aware of his injuries, he's aware of his future if he gets healthy. I think part of his past has been, as soon as he's gotten healthy enough to play, he's been in."

Waibel said Schuler, who attended RSL's home CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal match against Tigres UANL on March 2, is doing technical work on the ball, but hasn't progressed to full sprints just yet. Schuler has been participating in some training sessions with the Monarchs in recent weeks.

In terms of how long it'll take Schuler to gain full match fitness, Waibel said Schuler's currently "a ways away."

With Schuler joining the Monarchs, Waibel said he has "zero intent of blocking Chris' development" should another MLS club show interest in him.

However, he added, "Chris' intention, and he's made this very known to me because this was a pretty sensitive topic, he wants to be with this organization. This is where he wants to be. He wants to stay here. Right now, I don't really have the mindset that he would ever go anywhere else."

Twitter: @chriskamrani —

About Chris Schuler

A new path • Former RSL center back signed USL deal with Real Monarchs

Age • 28

Position • Center back

Hometown • Aurora, Ill.

Pro career • Real Salt Lake (2010-present)

Transaction • Drafted by RSL 39th overall in third round of 2010 MLS SuperDraft on Jan. 14, 2010.

Games played • 80 regular-season games, 72 regular-season starts

Injury history •

» 2010: Broke a bone in his right foot in a training session on Sept. 29, 2010, in Toronto. He played in one league match his rookie season.

» 2011: Stayed healthy, playing in 20 league matches, including 16 starts at center back.

» 2012: Suffered a stress fracture in his left foot on May 12, 2012. Missed three-and-a-half months. Played in 13 league matches, while starting just nine.

» 2013: Missed four months in the middle of the season due a stress fracture in his right foot. Started 16 matches, scored the series-clincher in 2-0 win over L.A. in 2013 WesternConference semifinals.

» 2014: Started a career high 25 league matches, had three goals and one assist in over 2,150 minutes played. Suffered several facial fractures in collision with former teammate Nat Borchers on Oct. 5, 2014.

» 2015: Started first four games of the season before suffering meniscus tear in warm-ups prior to April 18match against Vancouver. Missed three months before returning on July 11.