Valdes, 26, has played in nearly every match this season, logging 2,070 minutes. Only goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon and forward-midfielder Sebastien LeToux have logged more time (2,160).
"Carlos was playing 16 games with his old club and then comes here and is expected to play 34 games, it's going to take its toll," said manager Peter Nowak, who, surprisingly, also thinks his primary defender missing time is a bit of a blessing. "This [time off] is good for him to recharge his batteries. Look, we have a medical staff, training staff, a sport science guy and we use all these guys in the program to keep our guys fresh for every game. We try not to control their lives, but we stress that it's important to stay fresh as we go through all these games."
As a whole, the Union is fresh and should be focused heading into tomorrow's match. Thanks to Hurricane Irene, the team's home match last Saturday against New England was rescheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 7 (8 p.m., The Comcast Network, Galavision). Players have had more than a week to regenerate and put in the proper training to prepare for an upcoming week that holds three matches in an 8-day span, ending at home against a resurgent Portland unit next Saturday (7:30 p.m., TCN).
Expect to see some fresh faces in the lineup as Nowak, in his weekly news conference, noted that the Union "took a different approach to training this week" and that against Real Salt Lake "it'll be a test for these guys who don't have a lot of playing time on the field to step up."
There will be some shifting along the back line, but it's possible the starting lineup could find either Sheanon Williams or Stefani Miglioranzi alongside Califf. Gabriel Farfan will resume holding down the left, and if Williams is moved, ostensibly it makes way for either Ryan Richter or Juan Diego Gonzalez to get his first MLS start of the season.
Additionally, the club is expected to announce the signing of trialist Joe Tait. Nowak mentioned the staff has "kept a close eye" on the English fullback who plays (or played, by the time you read this) with Dayton, of USL Pro Division. Tait, 21, played (and scored) for the Union in its 5-3 comeback win against USL affiliate Harrisburg City last week.
One might ask, why muddle lineups so late in the season, but it's evident that despite the "one game at a time" approach Nowak likes to harp, I at least detect an undercurrent of urgency. In its last five MLS matches, the Union has scored only six goals and pulled only three points from a possible 15.
"It's not about fitness or the tactical part, now it's important that the group comes together," Nowak said. "[These guys] need to understand that sometimes you are in the starting 11 or on the [18-man game day roster] and sometimes you are not. It's more important for guys to be on their toes and not worry about who is or isn't on the field and why."
For a player like Valdes, his armchair perspective has never been more timely.
ODDS AND ENDLINES
Next Wednesday's match against New England will be the second Dollar Dog Night of the season at PPL Park ... The U.S. men's national team will host Costa Rica tonight (11 p.m., ESPN2, Galavision) at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. According to a tweet yesterday from the Washington Post's Steven Goff, the U.S. men will host another CONCACAF rival in Honduras on Oct. 8. and will play Ecuador 3 days later at a venue TBA ... In next week's Union Meeting, we take an in-depth look at the pressure young players sometimes face from parents and how it serves many times to be detrimental to the players' development.
SHOTS ON GOAL
Union (8-6-10, 34 points) at Real Salt Lake (11-7-6, 39 points)
When: Tomorrow, 9 p.m.
Where: Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah
TV: The Comcast Network
On the web: Streaming online at MLSSoccer.com
For kicks: Expect the Union to face a depleted Real squad due to injuries and departures for the upcoming FIFA international match day. However, Peter Nowak says his team must be ready to go against a well-coached RSL squad that is still showing why it was the 2009 MLS champion.
"Real is a quality team, basically has the same roster and lineup that they won the MLS Cup with. We can't be concerned with their injuries because they'll play very good as a team especially at home [8-2-3 home record]. It'll be a test for these guys who don't have a lot of time on the field to step up," Nowak said.
The Union will be without Carlos Valdes (suspension) and Keon Daniel, who is on international duty with Trinidad and Tobago.
(As of Tuesday)
Out for the Union: Levi Houapeu, FW (left ankle strain)
Doubtful: Brian Carroll, MF (right foot contusion)
Out for Real Salt Lake: Chris Agorsor, FW (right hand fracture); Nelson González, MF (right foot fracture); Javier Morales, MF (left ankle fracture dislocation); Chris Wingert, DF (left wrist fracture)
Doubtful: Kyle Reynish, GK (right ankle sprain)
Questionable: Ned Grabavoy, MF (left adductor strain)
Probable: Jean Alexandre, MF (right knee internal pain); Kyle Beckerman, MF (head laceration); Fabian Espíndola, FW (left knee contusion); Jamison Olave, DF (left knee MCL strain); Nick Rimando, GK (back contusion); Robbie Russell, DF (lower back spasms); Álvaro Saborío, FW (right knee effusion)
TWEET O' THE WEEK
"I knew an Irene once and she was pretty weak!"
- Union forward Sebastien LeToux, on Twitter for less than a month and already dropping gems. Follow LeToux: @SebastienLeToux.
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
Peter Nowak says he doesn't care what his competition is up to as the Union chase one of 10 playoff spots, but we know you do. So not counting tomorrow's matchup against Real Salt Lake, here's a look at what the Union has in store for the rest of the regular season.
NEW ENGLAND (Sept. 7): Record: 4-11-11, 23 points; Away: 1-7-5
Last meeting: Union defeated New England, 3-0, in a physical affair (July 17).
PORTLAND (Sept. 10): Record: 9-12-5, 32 points; Away: 1-8-3
Last meeting: Union suffered a 1-0 loss on national television (May 6).
COLUMBUS (Sept. 17): Record: 11-8-7, 40 points; Away: 3-7-3
Last meeting: Union lost, 2-1, on a rainy day at Crew Stadium (Aug. 20).
At Kansas City (Sept. 23): Record: 9-8-9, 36 points; At home: 6-2-4
Last meeting: A scoreless draw in the midst of a heat wave (June 22).
D.C. UNITED (Sept. 29): Record: 7-7-10, 31 points; Away: 4-4-4
Last meeting: A 2-2 draw on a day the Sons of Ben took over RFK (July 2).
At Chivas USA (Oct. 2): 7-10-10, 31 points; At home: 4-5-4
Last meeting: Union won, 3-2, for its only victory in June (June 25).
At Seattle (Oct. 8): 13-5-9, 48 points; At home: 7-2-4
Last meeting: Tied the Sounders, 1-1, in a monsoon at PPL Park (April 16).
TORONTO (Oct. 15): Record: 4-12-12, 24 points; Away 0-8-6
Last meeting: Union scored team-record six goals at BMO Field (May 28).
At New York (Oct. 20): 6-6-14, 32 points; At home: 5-2-5
Last meeting: Union won, 1-0, on goal from late sub Roger Torres (April 9).