The Claret-and-Cobalt travels to BBVA Compass Stadium on Thursday to face the Houston Dynamo at 6:30PM.

RSL will be without 4 starting players for the match. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando (USMNT), Captain Kyle Beckerman (USMNT), midfielder Will Johnson (Canada), and forward Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica) have been called to international duty with their respective countries national team selections for the upcoming FIFA World Cup qualifying fixtures. Beckerman, Johnson, and Saborio all departed for camp on Sunday September 2nd. Rimando is to remain behind to play with RSL on Thursday against Houston and then join the USMNT camp.

Left back Chris Wingert will also miss Thursday’s match due to yellow card accumulation after picking up a yellow card against DC United on Saturday.

Real Salt Lake finds its self in dire need of finding a way to get results and points on the road as it wraps up the MLS season and jostles for playoff seeding.

While the absence of the first three players presents its own conundrum, it is the absence of Chris Wingert that raises the most questions for Thursday’s lineup. RSL currently finds its self at a major deficiency for defenders due to injury.

Defenders Jamison Olave, Chris Schuler and Kenny Mansally are all currently on the club’s injury list.

So how do we address the absence of Chris Wingert?

Option #1: Playing Kenny Mansally at right back and switching Tony Beltran to left back would be the best scenario in the absence of Chris Wingert, but Mansally will not be available for Thursday’s match. When I asked RSL Media Services Manager Sam Stejskal about Mansally’s availability for Thursday he said:

“This could change, but as far as I know, neither Olave nor Mansally will be available on Thursday. Olave has been training, but I don’t think he’s ready yet. Mansally is almost certainly out. He’s yet to return to full training.”

Option #2: Return Jamison Olave to his center back position and slide his understudy, Kwame Watson-Siriboe, over to the left back slot. This option is already ruled out based upon Sam’s previous statement of Olave not being ready for match action yet.

Option #3: What about using Terakazu Tanaka at right back and switching Tony Beltran to left back? Well that is also not possible. With the signing of Kenny Mansally many of us had wondered about the future of Tanaka with RSL. Having not seen Tanaka for several weeks I grew suspicious about his whereabouts, even wondering if I had missed an announcement that he had been released. I checked the club roster on the official RSL website and sure enough his name was not to be found, so I asked Sam to confirm if Tanaka had been released. Sam responded:

“Tanaka has been released. We didn’t put anything out on it, so you didn’t miss anything.”

Option #4: Slide Will Johnson back to left back where he has filled in several times. Oh wait, he is gone with the Canada Nation Team, scratch that option.

Option #5: Chris Schuler has been on the mend and while not returning to match action yet he has been in the 18-man roster for the past two RSL fixtures. Chris has filled in admirably a couple of other times earlier this season at left back and would be a good option. When I asked Sam about Schuler’s availability for Thursday’s match he responded:

“Schuler is ready to play – the only question with him is his fitness. He’s probably not 90 minutes fit yet, but he should be getting close. I anticipate more updates on this Tuesday and Wednesday.”

I suspect we will see Schuler start at Wingert’s left back position. Given that he is really perhaps the only viable option I think we will see the coaching staff gamble and hope he is ready for a full 90 minutes.

There is always the possibility of picking up a short term loan but that always presents issues with integrating the player into a new system and I think we are more likely to see Schuler get the start at left back.

OK so what about the vacancies that Beckerman, Johnson and Saborio leave in the mid and attacking thirds?

Yordany Alvarez is Beckerman’s Robin. I am quite sure he will fill in at Kyle’s holding midfielder spot.

In place of Will Johnson in the wide midfielder spot in our diamond, I suspect we will see Jonny Steele, Luis Gil or Sebastian Velasquez get the start.

The absence of Sabo does leave several options in the forward positions. I suspect we will see Justin Braun in his stead.

The questions then remains, who will be paired up with Braun at forward? With the recent resurgence of Paulo Jr., he is certainly an option. It is also possible that Coach Kreis will opt for some more tenured veteran leadership in the attack and start Fabian Espindola at forward. Of course youngster Emiliano Bonfigli is also an option but I think we will see Espindola start this match.

All right then that brings me to my starting 11 prediction for Thursday’s fixture against Houston. I predict we will see the following lineup: GK Nick Rimando, DF Tony Beltran, DF Kwame Watson-Siriboe, DF Nat Borchers, DF Chris Schuler, MF Yordany Alvarez, MF Ned Grabavoy, MF Jonny Steele, MF Javier Morales, FW Justin Braun, FW Fabian Espindola.

The good news is that Houston will also be without 4 influential players who have joined their national teams ranks as well. MF Boniek Garcia (Honduras), DF Andre Hainault (Canada), DF Jermaine Taylor (Jamaica), and DF Je-Vaughn Watson (Jamaica) all earned call-ups from their national teams.

http://www.houstondynamo.com/news/2012/08/four-dynamo-players-called-world-cup-qualifying-matches

While all of these players have played crucial roles in the Dynamo lineup, I think it is the attacking spark that Boniek Garcia has brought to Houston that will be missed the most.

Taylor and Watson will face Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando and the USMNT on September 7th in Kingston, Jamaica and again on September 11th in Columbus, Ohio.

However the match lineup shakes out it is sure to be an interesting match, seeing how both teams adjust to the absence of key players in their rosters. I look forward to see how the RSL coaching staff will surprise us and how the team will rise to the challenge.

Match Preview: RSL Braves the Houston Heat in Search of a Road Result

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