For Real Salt Lake do the next 3 matches even matter? (Updated)

CARSON, CA - OCTOBER 01: The Real Salt Lake bench watch the play on the pitch as Head Coach Jason Kreis yells at his players from the sideline in the first half during the MLS match against the Los Angeles Galaxy at The Home Depot Center on October 1, 2011 in Carson, California. The Galaxy defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

So we are locked into the playoffs but where is yet to be determined, with their recent form it is unlikely that FC Dallas will be able to close the 5 point gap, RSL would have to lose all 3 and Colorado Rapids win both of their matches for the Rapids to catch us, but we still lead on goal differential.  So it is likely that no matter what happens over the next couple weeks that RSL will end up in 3rd place so do these matches even really matter?

I am split on this one, a part of me thinks it is wise to get guys playing well heading into the playoffs but it would probably be nice to rest some guys to have them fresh for the playoffs.  It could be a great chance to get some playing time for our younger guys to evaluate them and determine what off season moves might be needed.  It is also nice to get these guys some minutes in case of injuries in the playoffs, remember in the 2009 MLS Cup we had Javier go out in the first half, and Will Johnson at halftime.  That lead to fatigue that cost us chances in the match and extra time.

We will have to see some changes in Vancouver as national team call ups and the yellow card suspension of Fabian Espindola will force some moves on our starting XI.  Hint this is what I see happening:

Update: Well A couple of updates have impacted my projected lineup and who I think might be on the bench as well. So Arturo Alvarez turned down the call up call this time around to stay with RSL, a good chance to get some minutes and hopefully impress the staff that he is worth the money to keep around for next year.  I think we could see Arturo in the midfield or up top, but I have to believe that we will see him in the midfield.

Also Yordany Alvarez has some immigration issues that will prevent him from travelling with the team this weekend, so I removed him from the bench and put in Donny Toia, it sure could be a very interesting lineup.  I don't know if we will see Javier Morales in the starting XI, a lot of minutes on Saturday, so I expect that he might be rested and maybe come on later in the match.

Nick Rimando, Chris Wingert, Chris Schuler, Nat Borchers, Robbie Russell, Andy Williams, Ned Grabavoy, Luis Gil, Arturo Alvarez, Paulo Jr., and Cody Arnoux  

Bench: Tim Melia, Rauwshan McKenzie, Jamison Olave, Blake WagnerJavier Morales, Donny Toia and Chris Agorsor.  

Yeah a bit of a stretch but given the recent funk and the fact that it is a turf surface at BC Place, I think you take a couple of risks.  I could see a couple options as far as where some of those guys play, but we will see.  Remember that the Vancouver Whitecaps will also be without their top scorer as Eric Hassli will be on yellow card suspension as well.

A look at the other matches after the jump:

So last year when Jason started a mostly reserve lineup at home against Colorado I thought some people were going to go nuts, and with so many pieces of silverware gone from the realm of possibilities well I have to believe that this one will be looked at as a match where our top guys play and play hard not just to keep the Rocky Mountain Cup but to build momentum heading into the playoffs.  I hate that this is a Friday night match, but i still expect a lot of RSL fans will make the trip across the mountains and players on both side know how much this match means to their fans.  The Colorado Rapids are still trying to deal with both MLS and Champions League, so they might be a bit distracted for this one but I expect that they want to get the RMC back for the first time in several years.

So that leaves us with October 22nd, when the Portland Timbers come to town.  RSL will want to go big in this one for a couple of reasons. It is the final regular season match at home and to be honest the players have to feel as if they have let the fans at Rio Tinto down a bit this year, 3 losses including a very ugly loss to Chicago.  If they need any further motivation they could easily remember that their first league loss this year came just days after the Champions League final, when the Timbers kicked them when they were down.  The final tune up match for the playoffs, expect everyone who is healthy to play and play hard.

For RSL fans, staff, and players every match matters, but don't be surprised if Thursday turns into a match about 2012 and beyond.  The final two matches, oh yeah I fully expect the RSL team that we know and love to be there, and my hope is that maybe we can get Kyle Beckerman back from the inevitable suspension we know is coming, and maybe we can get Tony Beltran back from injury.

OFF MY SOAPBOX

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