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Sandy • That depth Real Salt Lake has been discussing all preseason is about to be put to a stiff first test. On Friday, RSL coach Jeff Cassar said center back Aaron Maund would not be part of the 18-man roster for the 2017 season-opener against Toronto FC Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium.
With RSL already down Justen Glad off with the U.S. U-20 national team in Costa Rica through the weekend the team faces the top forward tandem in Major League Soccer without two of its top central defenders. Maund is dealing a hamstring injury that has bothered him throughout preseason, Cassar said.
Odds are Chris Schuler and offseason acquisition David Horst get the starting nods at center back to tangle with Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore. Cassar said a final decision hasn't been made at least not publicly yet.
"Listen, there's choices to be made," he said. "You can always move Chris Wingert in there if you want to, but I'll tell you what, Justin Schmidt, for a young man, has a lot of composure. And every time that he's made a mistake in a game, he's came back and rectified it and had a solid game. Very similar to what we saw from Justen Glad earlier on in his career. He would mistakes once in a while, but their personalities are able to recover and they learn pretty quickly, too."
RSL drafted Schmidt, the 6-foot-1 23-year-old defender out of the University of Washington, in the second round of the 2017 MLS SuperDraft.
Cassar all-but ruled out left back Demar Phillips from the match Saturday against TFC. The 33-year-old defender has also been dealing with a hamstring issue that has kept him out of full training most of the week.
"Obviously we can't force it," Cassar said. "Wish we had [Danny] Acosta here in town, which would've been nice, but Chris Wingert's had a very good preseason, a strong preseason and he's nice and fresh and ready to go and I expect a big game from him."
Acosta is one of the four RSL first-teamers with the U-20s. After initially being projected as a defensive midfielder long-term, Cassar confirmed the 19-year-old from Sandy will compete for minutes at left back with the first team in 2017.
"I think he has all the attributes to be a very, very good left back in our league," Cassar said. "He's got pace, he's got a great delivery of the ball … and he also he has bite. And I think in that position it really allows for his strengths to show. Can he play in the midfield? Absolutely, but that's a big task for a young man that's a field general and he's not there yet with that department, but we'll see."