Real Salt Lake’s Nat Borchers undergoes quad surgery, out indefinitely

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If there was one team that could afford to lose their top two defenders, it was Real Salt Lake, However, with today’s news that former MLS Best XI defender Nat Borchers is out indefinitely after surgery on his right quadriceps, we’ll get a good idea how much depth Garth Lagerway and Jason Kreis have at center half. Come first kick, RSL will be without both of last year’s first choice central defenders.

Olave’s December trade to New York left Nats Borchers as the linchpin of RSL’s defense, but after lingering issues with his quad weren’t resolved with rest and rehab, Borchers underwent surgery the first week of January to repair a torn tendon. Recovery will “delay his preseason preparations,” according to the club, making it difficult to predict when he’ll be fit to return.

It sounds like Real Salt Lake needs to get Borchers back on the field before they’ll know when he’ll be to speed with his teammates. Does that mean April? May? It’s difficult to tell, but the language sounds more cautious than ominous.

This is where it’s nice to have both Chris Schuler and Kwame Watson-Siriboe. That duo may have sat behind Olave and Borchers on last year’s depth chart, but they’re defenders a number of Major League Soccer teams would love to have in their starting XIs. No, they won’t challenge for Best XI appearances, but they’ll be fine filling in for should Borchers spend most of the spring rounding into shape.

And what if Schuler of Watson-Siriboe go down? That’s where former Toronto first round pick Aaron Maund comes in. And there’s always the possibility of moving Chris Wingert in while giving Kenny Mansally time at left back. As usual, Garth Lagerway’s acquired options.

Still, there’s some suggestion Real Salt Lake may change their draft strategy based on Borchers’ health, a view echoed at MLSSoccer.com. Lagerway very well might change course on Thursday, but I’m having trouble seeing it. The team’s known about Borchers’ health concerns all winter, so the possibility of surgery will not have caught them off guard.

You have to think depth at center half was on Lagerway’s mind when he acquired Maund. He wasn’t leaving this one for the draft. If Lagerway goes central defense on Thursday, it’s likely because RSL feels that center half is the best player on the board.

In the interim, RSL still has their usual depth in the middle. With Olave gone and Borchers out, they may not have the MLS-elite quality at the top of the depth chart, but they have more than enough cover to make it through Borchers’ recuperation.

Europa League Preview: Everton, Milan look to make group stage

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Everton look to make it back into the Europa League group stage for the first time since the 2014-2015 season and it has a two-goal advantage heading into the second leg of its tie.

Ronald Koeman and co. travel to Croatia to face Hadjuk Split Thursday having won the first leg at Goodison Park, 2-0. Everton is coming off a hard-fought draw on Monday with Manchester City and will be on short rest heading into the match.

Elsewhere in Europa League action, AC Milan take its 6-0 aggregate lead to Skopje, Macedonia as the legendary club looks to return to the group stage of a European competition for the first time since 2013-2014.

Here’s a look at all of Thursday’s Europa League matches, with the current aggregate scores:

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League Cup wrap: Southampton, Newcastle knocked out by Championship sides

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Last season, Southampton made it to the EFL Cup final. This year, it’s a different story.

The Saints were bounced by Wolverhampton Wanderers, 2-0 at home on Wednesday in the second round of the cup. Joining Southampton of Premier League sides going home early was Newcastle, which lost 3-2 after extra time at home against Nottingham Forest.

Four other Premier League sides did advance to the third round, as Stoke City, Huddersfield Town, West Ham United and Burnley all won their fixtures.

Here’s a look at the rest of Wednesday’s EFL Cup action:

Blackburn 0-2 Burnley

Cheltenham 0-2 West Ham

Huddersfield 2-1 Rotherham

Newcastle 2-3 Nottingham Forest

Southampton 0-2 Wolverhampton

Stoke City 4-0 Rochdale

Breaking down who each Premier League team could face in the UCL Group Stage

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The UEFA Champions League group stage lineup is complete, with five Premier League clubs making the list.

On Wednesday, Liverpool joined Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United in the group stage after beating Hoffenheim, 6-3 on aggregate in the playoff qualification round.

Thursday’s Champions League draw (2 p.m. ET) will place clubs into groups of four, where they’ll play three matches at home and away.

Here’s a look at the four coefficient pots and who each Premier League club could face:

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Follow Live – Texas Derby, Cascadia Cup headline busy night of MLS action

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Welcome to MLS Rivalry Week.

The surging Houston Dynamo could move to first place in the Western Conference with a win over rivals FC Dallas while the current first-place side, the Seattle Sounders travel north and across the border to face Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

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The Dynamo have made an impressive turnaround under coach Wilmer Cabrera and he’ll have the trio of Ricardo Clark, Alberth Elis and star forward Erick Torres available to face Dallas after missing the Dynamo’s match at Vancouver last weekend, which ended 2-1 in favor of the Whitecaps.

FC Dallas are in its worst form of the season, winless in its last four games, but the team will be extra motivated to beat its rivals.

El Capitan is on the line after draws between FC Dallas and the Dynamo in two matches earlier this season.

Meanwhile up in Vancouver, the Whitecaps host a Sounders squad that pulled out a last-gasp victory last weekend over Minnesota United. While the team is in great form on the road recently (two wins and two draws), the top story heading into the game is the unexpected absence of Joevin Jones, who left the Sounders for his home in Trinidad and Tobago ahead of the upcoming international break.

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On the other side, Fredy Montero faces his former club and carries an interesting record into Wednesday’s match. Of his 35 MLS goals, 11 have been scored against Cascadia Cup competition.

Here’s a look at Wednesday’s action:

Full schedule

Columbus Crew vs. LA Galaxy – 7:30 p.m. ET

D.C. United vs. Atlanta United – 7:30 p.m.ET

FC Dallas vs. Houston Dynamo – 8 p.m. ET

Toronto FC vs. Philadelphia Union – 8 p.m. ET

Real Salt Lake vs. San Jose Earthquakes – 10 p.m. ET

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Seattle Sounders – 10 p.m. ET

Portland Timbers vs. Colorado Rapids – 10:30 p.m. ET