Heading into the US Open Cup quarterfinal against Real Salt Lake on Tuesday, Schellas Hyndman had to be worried about the midfield battle. With two of the three normal starters not fit to start the game(Andrew Jacobson and Daniel Hernandez) as well as a needed rest for attackers Brek Shea and Jackson, Schellas was forced to turn to Bruno Guarda, Bobby Warshaw, Eric Avila and Ricardo Villar to fill the gap.
Hyndman must have cringed when seeing RSL's starting lineup which was basically the same midfield that dominated FC Dallas in a 2-0 loss on Saturday. However, things ended up quite the opposite as these four completely bossed the midfield against the more experienced Salt Lake side.
Bruno Guarda has been a much maligned figure here in the past, but I don't think anyone would have a problem with his performance on Tuesday. The Brazilian played the linking midfielder role very well, hassling Kyle Beckerman all over the field while rarely turning the ball over.
Eric Avila, on the left flank, showed flashes of the skill that had most of us pegging him as a possible starter this season and actually spent more time playing defense which Schellas must have loved. Amazing considering just a week or so ago we were all expecting Avi to be moving on to a new career in Mexican soccer.
Schellas always talks about wanting guys with high character and it's not hard to see why Bobby Warshaw is slotted as Daniel Hernandez's replacement after his performance on Tuesday. Saturday's game from Warshaw could be described pretty much as a disaster. He was out of position and turned the ball over much too often and generally looked out of his depth, but on Tuesday he proved Schellas right for starting him. There's no doubt that he's still got some work to do, but as a rookie he's performing very well.
Ricardo Villar is another guy who has been criticized for his high contract and low returns, but it seems that this Brazilian is beginning to figure out the league. He played an hour in Salt Lake on Saturday looking fairly decent and on Tuesday he showed that he's beginning to gel with his teammates. Villar may not be a starter, but he will be invaluable to this team in Champions League and as a bench spark.
Overall, Schellas has to be thrilled with what he's seen out of these guys. There's no doubt who the regular starters are, but on Tuesday Eric Avila, Bruno Guarda, Bobby Warshaw and Ricardo Villar proved they can be trusted with playing time to fill in when needed.