SEATTLE, Wash. -- Away at the intimidating Qwest Field, Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis could be forgiven for worrying about his backline.
Veteran goalkeeper Nick Rimando had tweaked his Achilles tendon the day before in training, and hulking centerback Jameson Olave was suspended. Their replacements had a combined one full game of MLS play.
His apprehension was likely stretched in the opening minutes, when a blistering start from Seattle Sounders FC put the two inexperienced reserves under pressure. Defender Chris Schuler, 23, struggled when run at by Steve Zakuani and Fredy Montero, letting both create chances. And net-minder Kyle Reynish, 26, nearly bobbled a cross which would have surely resulted in an early goal.
Midway through the first half, however, Salt Lake crawled back into the match, stringing slick passes together and carving out some possession. As the initial start subsided, the duo bedded in and solidified their games.
"I definitely had a little bit of nerves in me, but once the game got going I felt good," rookie Schuler explained of his MLS debut. "It definitely made it real difficult, the amount of noise. We're real big on communication, making sure guys are in the right positions, and it's hard to do when they can't hear you."
Though Seattle sent a good deal of direct balls at the head of Nate Jaqua, Schuler and defensive partner Nat Borchers imposed themselves on the match, winning headers and keeping the ball away from the danger areas.
"Schuler had a great game," Borchers asserted, complimenting his young teammate. "It's trial by fire when you're playing on the road against a good team like Seattle, and I thought he responded really well. He won all his battles, dominated the air, was pretty good with his distribution, so I'm very happy with the way he played."
Reynish credited his defense for making his second appearance of the year an easy one.
"I didn't really feel like I had to come out and do much on the crosses because you know Schuler and Borchers are going to give a good challenge," Reynish said of his shutout.
Kreis admitted the decision to field Reynish hinged on Salt Lake's hectic schedule. The team will play six games over the course of 18 days, including international flights as the MLS champs compete in the CONCACAF Champions League.
"This was more a decision about what's in front of us than necessarily just the one match," the coach said, after lavishly praising his squad players.
Borchers hailed impact of contributing players, noting the season wears on the starting roster: "It just proves we've got a lot of depth in this team and it's going to pay dividends in the playoffs."
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