Pablo Mastroeni Dumbfounded By Length Of Injury List At Center Back Position
SALT LAKE CITY – Real Salt Lake manager Pablo Mastroeni’s selection headache is worsening as the injury list at the club continues to grow.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Mastroeni told KSL Sports in the postgame of last weekend’s 1-0 loss against SKC when asked about the health of his center backs. “We might have to bring one of our outside backs in to somehow build a three but then that leaves us exposed in the wide areas,” he added.
Last weekend, Johan Kappelhof was pulled from the starting XI minutes before kickoff after pulling up from the warmups with a sore calf that he injured a week prior. Erik Holt never returned from the halftime tunnel against SKC and was later diagnosed with plantar fasciitis. Aaron Herrera is dealing with a sore calf, Justen Glad has a hamstring issue that will likely sideline him for at least another week.
I asked Mastroeni if he will have enough center backs to field next week and he honestly didn't know.
— Tom Hackett (@TomCantHackett) March 27, 2022
So far in 2022, Mastroeni has opted to play three across the backline but when Kappelhof failed to suit up prior to SKC, Mastroeni quickly adjusted and played four across the backline for the first time this year.
Depending on the players that are available to him ahead of this weekend’s road clash against Colorado, Real Salt Lake may be forced into playing four across the back.
Fortunately, the chaotic center back injury list has provided 17-year-old Jaziel Orozco with an opportunity. Orozco came off the bench against SKC at halftime replacing Holt and looked more than comfortable playing alongside Marcelo Silva.
“Oh it is unbelievable,” Orozco said immediately following his debut against SKC. “Unfortunately Holt had an injury going on, and I had to step up. It felt amazing, I want to say thank you to every coach, to every staff member, to my family, I want to thank God. It was amazing.”
— Real Salt Lake (@realsaltlake) March 28, 2022
Throughout the second half, Orozco made a number of key contributions. He looked comfortable and poised, 17-year-olds should not look that comfortable playing for the first time at the MLS level. Orozco may just be built differently than most.
Already Orozco has trained with the Mexican National Team, debuted at the highest level possible in the United States, and is yet to reach his 18th birthday.
As Mastroeni and Real Salt Lake prepare for the Colorado Rapids this upcoming Saturday evening, the options at center back are concerning.
If Kappelhof passes his midweek fitness tests then Mastroeni will have the ability to play three across the back with Silva, Orozco, and Kappelhof all available. If Kappelhoff cannot go, Mastroeni will likely be forced to play four across the back with Silva and Orozco playing alongside one another.
Either option suggests that Orozco will see more minutes this weekend against arch-rivals Colorado Rapids in another road test for Real Salt Lake.
Real Salt Lake will next travel to Colorado and DSG Park for a date with the Rapids in the first episode of the Rocky Mountain Cup for 2022.
The kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 2. The match will be available to watch for free via the KSL Sports & KSL Sports apps or on KSL Sports dot com.
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