This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Portland, Ore. • Four-hundred and 25 days ago, Chris Schuler walked off the Rio Tinto Stadium field in elation, having helped Real Salt Lake press on in the 2015 U.S. Open Cup tournament. Over the course of the next 14 months, the longtime RSL center back's promising career was again thrown into flux.
Pain had resurfaced in Schuler's foot following his second match back from a previous four-month absence due to knee surgery to correct a torn meniscus. Tests eventually revealed a broken navicular bone in his left foot. Surgery was necessary, leading to an uncertain future.
Schuler didn't return to the field until May 2016, when his first match back from another injury-riddled season was a start with Real Monarchs, RSL's USL affiliate, at Providence Park in Portland, Ore.
Five months later, Schuler's arduous road back to the first team is officially complete. In the same stadium. The 29-year-old center back earned his first start since last summer against the reigning champion Portland Timbers to aid a suddenly thin RSL back line.
With starter Aaron Maund (toe fracture) sidelined indefinitely, Jamison Olave serving a one-game suspension and 19-year-old Justen Glad returning to the starting lineup after dealing with a hamstring tweak, Schuler's inclusion is a positive development for RSL now in the stretch run of the year.
Re-signed by the club on Aug. 11 after spending the prior six months with the Monarchs, he missed RSL's match Wednesday due to soreness after starting for the Monarchs last weekend.
But Schuler returned to training Thursday and Friday before the team flew to Portland.
Over a year between MLS starts, month after month of rehabilitation and 10 matches with the Monarchs, Schuler's physical presence and booming voice is back commanding the RSL back line.
Allen in at No. 10
No. 70 was in at the No. 10 spot. Technically, the No. 11 spot. Jordan Allen earned his first start since July 13 on Saturday night against the Timbers. The 21-year-old midfielder gave 36-year-old incumbent Javier Morales a respite after Morales started the past 10 matches in his usual attacking midfield role.
Allen this week said with the Timbers hanging on to the sixth and final West playoff spot, he expected Portland to play more defensive-minded than usual at home. Entering Saturday, the Timbers allowed 44 goals, tied for most in the Western Conference.
While penciled in Morales' spot, Allen recognized that more defensive work would be demanded of RSL's three-man midfield due to Portland stars Diego Valeri and Darlington Nagbe.
"Nagbe will do some more defensive work than he credits for, so he finds himself in a lot of good positions to pick up the ball and run," Allen said. "We're going to have to be very mindful and make sure even when we do have the ball, we're in good shapes defensively."
Sunday Stephen also completed his return to the RSL starting lineup Saturday night. The 27-year-old Nigerian midfielder in his first year with RSL missed the past 12 matches after suffering multiple facial fractures in an on-field collision on June 22.
Veteran defender Chris Wingert was given the start at right back four days after starting at center back. Backup goalkeeper Jeff Attinella did not travel. Attinella is dealing with a shoulder injury. Third goalkeeper Lalo Fernandez was RSL's backup against the Timbers.