Anytime an athlete can play for his or her national team, it is a very prestigious honor.
Over the next month, the United States will host the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament that will feature the best soccer players from 12 countries in the North and Central America region.
With players being selected from current rosters of their club teams from all over the world, the upcoming tournament will alter the lineups of several teams in Major League Soccer.
Many teams will make adjustments to accommodate play without those who are away to help their country.
Real Salt Lake is no different from other MLS clubs but perhaps will see the effects of call-ups more than any other team.
For a team that has not yet gotten back on track following a very difficult loss in the CONCACAF Champions League final, and is dealing with the significant loss of their star player to injury, the timing of this tournament could not be worse.
Four Real Salt Lake players have been selected to the teams of four different countries. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando (USA), midfielder Will Johnson (Canada) and forwards Arturo Alvarez (El Salvador) and Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica) could all miss time while playing for their national teams.
Will Johnson will stay with Real Salt Lake to play in it's home match against the Seattle Sounders before leaving to miss at least three matches?
The two forwards who have started the last two weeks for Real Salt Lake have already left for national team duty. They will miss at least four matches and possibly more if their national teams advance beyond the group stage.
Head coach Jason Kreis is now faced with the task of juggling his lineup to try to replace the departing players. Coming into the season, depth was one strength that the team had, but due to injuries, the roster is more limited and the task is much more difficult.
Here is a breakdown of possibilities that Kreis has:
Defenders: The defensive back line should be unaffected. Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert and Robbie Russell should continue to play the dominating defense they have shown all season long.
Through eight matches, they have only allowed two goals. This defensive unit may be what saves Real Salt Lake during the Gold Cup stretch.
Due to being the third goalkeeper, Rimando would only miss time if the other two US Gold Cup keepers are not able to play. In the event that he does miss a match, backup Kyle Reynish has proven to be more than capable in the past.
Midfielders: While they only actually lose one player in Will Johnson, there will be several changes in the midfield. Having already struggled to replace injured star Javier Morales, Kreis will now most likely start Andy Williams and Collen Warner.
Warner was injured in the last match, and may not be available against the Sounders. Jean Alexandre and Nelson Gonzalez may see starts and an increase in playing time.
Forwards: Over the next several matches that these players will miss, play at the forward position will define the success of Real Salt Lake.
While the team is expecting the return of Fabian Espindola, he may not have a lot of help up top. The clubs other forward, Paulo Jr., has been injured and not expected to return soon.
This leaves a gaping hole to be filled by young inexperienced forwards who are not yet ready to play at this level, or a midfield player who is not used to playing as a forward. Andy Williams, Will Johnson and Jean Alexandre are possibilities to play alongside Espindola.
While all three are good players who are capable of scoring, the time taken for them to adjust to the forward position could greatly impact the team.
Espindola must return to the form he showed last season for Real Salt Lake to continue to push forward and be able to outscore it's opponents.
One other option that Kreis may have is to change his formation from his preferred 4-4-2 (four defenders, four midfielders, two forwards) to a more defensive 4-5-1 to maximize play from his midfielders.
This change in formation is not likely, but one strength Kreis has shown over his time as the head coach, is his ability to adjust for the needs of the team and game.
Regardless of which adjustments are made, the next month could be the stretch that makes all the difference for Real Salt Lake this season.
Hopefully it will be for the good.