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Sandy • On another damp, frigid day at America First Field, only 14 players eligible for Real Salt Lake's Western Conference road clash at Sporting Kansas City Saturday evening participated in Wednesday's training session.
As numbers remain severely dwindled due to the amount of injuries and suspension surrounding the team, it seems somewhat conceivable that RSL becomes the first Major League Soccer franchise to call upon the Extreme Hardship Call-Up rule in 2016. According to the league's MLS Player Rules and Regulations Summary, clubs may sign players 25-years-old or younger from their USL affiliate on loan for MLS season games, only in the case of "Extreme Hardship."
Which is defined when an MLS club has fewer than 15 total players available or when an MLS club with three goalkeepers on its roster has fewer than two goalkeepers available. If numbers of available first-teamers this week are any indication, RSL might have to rely on the new rule just to fill out its bench at Sporting Kansas City. The rule is classified as a "short-term agreement" that is a four-day contract with the first team.
A club may sign a USL-affiliated player to a maximum of four short-term agreements each season.
Including a back-up goalkeeper not to mention barring another injury RSL's bench would currently constitute three possible players in Children's Mercy Park, assuming left back Demar Phillips returns fit and available after back-to-back starts with the Jamaican national team in World Cup qualifying matches against Costa Rica.
Several Real Monarchs have joined RSL's training sessions this week, which isn't coincidental. If RSL needs to fill anywhere from two to three spots on its bench at Sporting Kansas City, the coaching staff and front office could choose from any number of USL players available.
The list of RSL players unavailable this weekend includes:
» Midfielder Kyle Beckerman (red card suspension)
» Midfielder Omar Holness (suffered a seizure, separated shoulder in Monarchs match)
» Defender Phanuel Kavita (MCL injury)
» Forward Burrito Martinez (red card suspension)
» Midfielder Javier Morales (broken rib)
» Defender Boyd Okwuonu (concussion)
» Defender Jamison Olave (red card suspension)
» Midfielder Fito Ovalle (Personal reasons)
» Forward Emery Welshman (hip flexor)
Forward Olmes Garcia (ankle sprain) worked with the RSL training staff Tuesday, but did not train Wednesday, which seems the Colombian striker won't be available for Saturday's match either.
"It's beat up right now," RSL head athletic trainer Tyson Pace said Wednesday.
Forward Yura Movsisyan, who has been dealing with an adductor strain that led to him being subbed off in the 2-2 draw in Portland on March 19, left training early Wednesday after experiencing cramping. Pace said the cold weather coupled with Movsisyan's second day back fully training, it wasn't unnatural to see him cramp up.
"I don't think it will hold him out for this weekend," Pace said, "but we'll see how he recovers for tomorrow."
The rib contusion Morales suffered in the season-opening draw at Orlando City on March 6 became a rib fracture in Portland when Timbers midfielder Diego Chara collided with RSL's midfield playmaker two weeks ago. Pace said Morales felt "a pop" in his rib cage during the collision, which will leave RSL minus its star creator for a while longer.
Currently, the best-case scenario for Morales' potential return would be April 9 at home against Colorado, but that's if everything goes according to plan with zero setbacks. Pace said Morales struggled just to ride an exercise bike last week during RSL's week off, which showcases the level of pain accompanied by a broken rib.
"Our goal would be that he could start working on some minor fitness things for the next week and hopefully be back in training next week," Pace said.