Another LA Galaxy-Real Salt Lake rivalry game kicked off on Saturday, March 22. RSL defender Chris Schuler was even back in uniform on Saturday marking his -- and the team’s first -- game back in their friendly confines of Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.
Schuler was replacing Aaron Maund who was declared unable to play Saturday due to a hamstring injury. Noting how well Maund had played against the Galaxy in RSL's only win this season, you had to wonder how the change would turn out.
After Alvaro Saborio notched his first goal this season in the 18th minute in a game of firsts, things looked okay for a bit.
Schuler soon found himself defending a Galaxy mainstay -- their counterattack. The result was not good as RSL settled for a 1-1 draw against LA in front of a sellout crowd.
For the soccer fans who are unaware, a counterattack occurs when the attacking team, or Real Salt Lake, loses possession of the ball -- and the opposing team -- or the LA Galaxy -- quickly attacks RSL in the other direction.
A counterattack can be deadly in a matter of moments and Schuler -- who is getting back to health after suffering a knee injury -- found himself defending back on his heels.
It is a position that no defender in soccer ever wants to be in. The preferred defensive stance is called sideways-on, with your hips turned into the player so that you can open your body quickly to win back the ball.
Instead, wing defender Chris Wingert lost the ball at midfield to Galaxy forward Robbie Keane, who dribbled down the right wing.
Schuler got turned inside-out with his legs open to an onrushing Keane, who juked him inside the RSL penalty box, went to his right and blasted a one-timer past Nick Rimando in the 34th minute to tie the game.
What is interesting to note on that play is that you can make excuses -- and plenty did -- for the perilous mistake Wingert and Schuler both made.
“I was really pleased. He was battling with (LA's other forward) Rob Friend most of the night and won most of those challenges. I was really proud of him. We’ll see how he’s feeling tomorrow because that’s the key with Chris – how he does the next day,” RSL head coach Jeff Cassar said in his post-game press conference.
How Real Salt Lake does the next game against a vastly improved Toronto FC side loaded with talent is the real question for a team that committed a whopping 18 fouls and got two yellow cards in a sloppy, ugly played match.
Of those 18 fouls, Schuler committed three -- as did Saborio, the two main RSL catalysts in different ways in this home opening draw.