Real Salt Lake has stumbled out of the top spot in the Western Conference, and the lead for the Supporters Shield race, but Jason Kreis' side is still much in the race for several pieces of silverware as it prepares to face the San Jose Earthquakes at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday.
San Jose is coming off an impressive mid-week CONCACAF Champions League rout of the Montreal Impact, but RSL will present a much tougher challenge, especially at home. Chris Wondolowski and the Earthquakes attack will look to attack an RSL defense that looked vulnerable last week against Seattle.
For RSL, the midfield tandem of Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales will be key to beating a San Jose side with a tough defense but vulnerable midfield. The Earthquakes have been better in recent weeks, boasting a 5-2-2 record in their past nine matches. Despite that run, San Jose need to score the upset vs. RSL to keep their playoff hopes realistically alive. The Earthquakes sit five points out of the playoffs, but can close the gap on a weekend when the teams ahead of them, Portland and FC Dallas, face tough opponents.
First, the Earthquakes must contend with an RSL side eager to regain their top spot in the West. Real Salt Lake will be without Costa Rican striker Alvaro Saborio, who is sidelined with a calf injury, but forward Olmes Garcia and Joao Plata are more than capable of threatening San Jose's vaunted central defense pairing of Victor Bernardez and Clarence Goodson.
RSL has dominated the season series, posting a pair of shutout victories. One of those, a 2-0 win at Buck Shaw Stadium, came in the season-opener on March 3rd, while the other was a 3-0 victory at Rio Tinto Stadium on June 1st.
Real Salt Lake will enter the match dealing with the distraction of rumors linking head coach Jason Kreis to to the New York City FC coaching job, with Sports Illustrated reporting on Thursday that NYCFC has spoken to Kreis about the position.
San Jose's interim head coach, Mark Watson, will be looking to boost his own chances of keeping the Earthquakes job heading into the 2014 season, and a victory on Saturday against RSL could help him and the Earthquakes take a big step toward making that happen.