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SALT LAKE CITY — When Real Salt Lake heads to Philadelphia in search of its third win for the season, it will do so without a bevy of regular first-team faces — including starting goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
But it will also go with a couple of returning veterans and a new signing on the back line. RSL signed 17-year-old defender Justen Glad to a Homegrown Player contract on Monday, and Chris Wingert (groin) and Sebastian Velasquez (hamstring) returned to training this week ahead of Saturday’s clash with the Union at 2 p.m. MDT.
“I feel good,” Wingert told RealSaltLake.com on Wednesday. “It was just a slight strain. Nothing too serious. I didn’t rip it or anything. And it was fully healed last week, and I wanted to get it fully healed before going forward.”
The versatile Glad has experience across the back line with RSL’s Arizona Academy squads, though he has appeared most comfortable in the center of the defense.
“I’m really looking forward to being able to join the RSL first team,” Glad said in a statement. “Ever since I can remember, I’ve dreamed of being a professional, and RSL and the RSL-Arizona Academy have made that possible. It’s going to be an amazing experience learning from a great coaching staff and an experienced group of players, and I’m incredibly thankful for everyone that helped make this dream a reality.”
RSL released midfielder Joey Dillon to make room for Glad. The Georgetown alum didn’t feature for RSL since being drafted in the third round of the 2014 MLS SuperDraft.
Velasquez saw his first full training of the season this week, and he should be available for selection to the 18 on Saturday.
The reserves came back just in time, as right back Tony Beltran remains day-to-day with an ankle injury, and midfielder Luis Gil was also held out of training. Starting goalkeeper Rimando remains doubtful for Saturday’s game, though reserve Jeff Attinella played admirably with nine saves in last week’s 0-0 draw at Sporting Kansas City.
Speedy striker Robbie Findley also continues to mend from an offseason patellar tendon injury, and head coach Jeff Cassar said he is “getting closer” to being available for first-team action. The former Nottingham Forest forward will likely not be available by Saturday’s game, however.
In addition to the revolving door of injured players, RSL will be without forward Benji Lopez and midfielder Jordan Allen after the duo was called up to the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team ahead of the Dallas Cup until April 20. Allen is in his second stint with the U-20 side, and Lopez has featured in three during the current World Cup cycle for head coach Tab Ramos.
Despite a shuffling lineup filled with early season injuries, Real Salt Lake finds itself unbeaten at 2-0-3 and in second place in the Western Conference — despite only playing two home matches in the young season.
“For the staff and the rest of the team, you can’t get too caught up in (injuries),” Wingert told reporters. “You have to play with who you’ve got and do the best you can. And I think the guys have been stepping up.” Sean Walker is a recent journalism graduate of Syracuse University and longtime soccer guy who adds a few stories to KSL.com, when he has a spare minute. Follow him on Twitter @GoaldotSean.