SANDY, UT - SEPTEMBER 3: Goalie Nick Rimando #18 of Real Salt Lake directs his teammates at a game against the Philadelphia Union during the first half of an MLS soccer game September 3, 2011 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. Real Salt Lake beat the Philadelphia Union 2-1. Real Salt Lake beat the Philadelphia Union 2-1. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
So every team will play some big matches down the stretch of their season, but for Real Salt Lake the 15 days that start on Wednesday the 21st are simply as big as it comes. 5 matches in 15 days, 4 of them on the road, 3 against Eastern Conference teams, and one that will determine the Supporters' Shield, yeah the next couple weeks could be the entire season in a capsule. Oh and I forgot that RSL will very likely see the return of Javier Morales during this stretch.
So let's start at the beginning on Wednesday RSL will be in New York to take on the Red Bulls who picked up their 7th win of the season this weekend by beating FC Dallas on the road and will be looking to improve on their 5-2-6 home record. While the debacle that is the Red Bulls won't be decided on Wednesday night, their fight for respect and a shot at the playoffs will be, which will make them a very dangerous team for RSL. You simply can't deny that talent that exists on their roster, and the fact that TH14 and RM4 both didn't play and will be well rested could add even more danger for RSL than the return of Luke Rodgers. Can RSL find a way to get a result in New York? Of course they can but for them to keep real pressure on LA and Seattle they will need more than a draw, they will need a way to pick up a full 3 points. The challenge for RSL will have some added difficulty as they will be without Kyle Beckerman for the match as he will be serving a one match suspension for yellow cards.
(Tonya just for you) more after the jump:
The team will then stay on the East coast and head to Washington DC for a Saturday match at RFK against DC United, another team that is fighting for a spot in the post season and despite having a lot of talent on the pitch has struggled with consistency all year. They just got embarrassed in Seattle this weekend and you have to believe Ben Olsen will get his boys fired up to look for some revenge and to get some dignity back for their home fans. DC is just 3-3-6 at home this year and you have to believe that they will be looking for a strong result against RSL. This is a match that RSL should be able to win, let's be honest there is simply too much chaos on the pitch for United, they look like a team of kids playing as too often they all just chase the ball without much rhyme or reason. I have to believe that 4 points would be acceptable from the two road matches, but in order to keep dreams of the Supporters' Shield alive a full 6 points will be required as it is unlikely that LA is going to slip up any time soon.
RSL will then head back home from the East coast just in time to play host to the Chicago Fire on Wednesday, Sept. 28th at Rio Tinto Stadium, at home there simply is no excuse not to expect and get the full 3 points from this match. Sure it will be the 3rd match in 7 days, yes there will be a lot of travel involved but with the depth that RSL can bring. The Fire have put together some results lately but I can't see any reason RSL doesn't roll over them and get the win. This is also the last trade in day for RSL season ticket holders so we should see a very good crowd for the match.
Then the match of the year, as RSL will be looking for a season sweep of the LA Galaxy when they head to the Home Depot Center on Saturday, Oct. 1st. If RSL want any chance of winning the Supporters' Shield then this is a must win, and for LA winning this would all but clinch home field (including MLS Cup- how convenient is that). LA is also very busy during this stretch with 5 matches (3 MLS and 2 Champions League) and you have to wonder how all the travel will impact both teams. If you look at the calendar this is the match of the year, and by the time the 1st rolls around you could be looking at the two best teams in MLS. It is a shame that it won't be on national TV.
RSL will then head to Vancouver to take on the Whitecaps to play their rescheduled match on Thursday, Oct. 6th at BC Place, this will be just the second match at the new home of the Vancouver Whitecaps, which means their emotions will be running high. For Real Salt Lake this is another one of those 3 point road matches, anything less than 3 points would be a huge blow to the aspirations of RSL's season, not to mention any run towards the Supporters' Shield.
15 days, 5 matches, and to be honest anything less than 13 points and it is unlikely that RSL will have a chance to catch the Galaxy. It is however one of the most exciting times of the year as the MLS season hits playoff fever time, for RSL fans there is probably no better time of year and then when you add in the return of Javier Morales it is easy to see why RSL fans are getting very excited.
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