When Union left back Fabinho was substituted out of Saturday's game at halftime because of a knee injury, there was cause for concern. About an hour later, when he walked around the locker room saying he was fine, there was cause for relief.
It turns out he wasn't fine.
The veteran Brazilian suffered an MCL sprain and a slight meniscus tear against the Columbus Crew and "possibly" will be out "a few weeks," coach Jim Curtin said Thursday. Fabinho is likely to miss the March 31 game at the Colorado Rapids.
"We're still, with our doctors, right now going through the options," Curtin said. "There's the potential for surgery. There's the potential for strengthening the muscles around it and seeing where he's at."
Fabinho was replaced Saturday by Ray Gaddis, a right back who can play the other side. The true backup — and the future starter — is Matt Real, an 18-year-old academy product from Drexel Hill.
"It's a hard spot for sure, but there's no easy spot when you're making your debut," Curtin said. "He's as ready as anyone else we have on our roster."
But there's a hitch: Real is at a U.S. under-20 national team training camp in Spain. On Wednesday, he played 90 minutes against France's under-20 squad in a 2-0 loss. The teams will meet again Friday, then the U.S. will play powerhouse club Atlético Madrid's under-21 team on Tuesday.
The camp will run until Wednesday, and since the Union are off this weekend, Real won't miss any games. But if Real is going to play at Colorado, Curtin might try to get him back a day or two early. Curtin said he had talked to U.S. coach Tab Ramos about making that happen if necessary.
Curtin also said that reserve centerback Richie Marquez recently had surgery for a sports hernia and will miss four to six weeks. Marquez did not play in the first two games of the season. Josh Yaro seems the most-likely player to step up, but Curtin mentioned academy product Mark McKenzie as a candidate. The 19-year-old from Bear, Del., is also with the U.S. under-20s, and could also be summoned home early.